Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ignorance and Arrogance

Ignorance and Arrogance... The Twin Peaks of 21st Century America! Not that people were all that smarter in the past, nor politicians any less greedy, racist, or anything else than they are today.

But I do recall a certain sense of shame, or perhaps it was just a certain level of self awareness. And if you didn't have it... Hell, even Dick Nixon was eventually made to deal with it. Today we create our own reality, and god help us all...

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Two Reminders...

First, the fabulous Peter Brook of Prison Photography informs us that a separate website is being created for our Virtual Symposium on Race and Photography due sometime late spring/early summer...

Second, 2/28 is the deadline for entering the Canteen Photo Competition!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Eva Leitolf- Looking For Evidence Part II

I finally got my very own copy of Eva Leitolf's Looking For Evidence- and I'm happy to report my initial ten minute impression was by no means exaggerated, mistaken, or misleading. The book every bit as beautiful, as its topic is serious! Its remarkable photographs forever exuding a stoic stillness, an almost serene solemnity that belies the violence and hatred that instigated their very creation.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

This Is Not My Sky- Noah Beil

Noah Beil was kind enough to send me a copy of his book, This Is Not My Sky- a 5x8 inch hand bound book he made from scratch, with a dozen approx 4x5 inch reproductions. And did I mention how lovely it all is? 

Many small artist's books have that cheap, "it's just to give ya a hint" feel to them (not an inherently negative connotation)- a select few such as this however, really let ya feel the love. And the reproductions, small as they may be, are sharp, with pleasing tonalities that allow you to actually appreciate both the photographs, and subject matter (landscapes in Santa Monica). And as amazing as the book is, the fact that Noah made such impressive images simply as a side note on a trip to check out his work at a group show opening is doubly impressive!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Master Weekend Photo Workshop

Blurb will be publishing my book on Pet Cemeteries sometime this spring- and as you all well know, Blurb doesn't go around publishing just anyone...

To commemorate this momentous event, I've decided to hold a Master Weekend Photo Workshop- The Art of Photographing Pet Cemeteries. For a mere $2,500 you will get my personal one-on-one guidance on photo topics too numerous to list here as I personally locate and point out individual grave stones. This is truly a unique opportunity to rub shoulders and learn directly from the master in this field .... Space is limited, so apply now!

PS- If you cannot attend in person, I do offer a home correspondence version for a fraction of the cost ($250, plus S&H). The home version includes: a fairly recent map, a plastic water bottle with my logo, and a certificate worth $15 that can be used towards my next workshop. Vista compatible only...

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Seeing Through A Republican

Having worked with people with developmental disabilities for the past five years has been both a rewarding and insightful experience. And if you've been following this hypocritical brouhaha- it  certainly doesn't get any more insightful than this:

My mother did not carry me around under her arm like a loaf of French bread the way former Governor Palin carries her son Trig around looking for sympathy and votes. 
-Andrea Fay Friedman

Actually, the only question here is- What does it take to shame a Republican?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Thursday, February 18, 2010

"I Think She May Have Been Born In That Bed...

...I know her mother certainly died in it." The story behind the Eugene Richards' photo (review of The Blue Room, here).

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

US Armed Forces Recruitment Poster?

Photos: Eugene Richards

Whenever I see this chilling, unforgettable and oh so moving photograph by Eugene Richards, I immediately  think--- official US Armed Forces recruitment poster! And that's not meant to be a "humorous" or snide remark by any means whatsoever.

Something along the lines of...
Still helping bring families together in the 21st century!

Imagine, the ramifications of that poster sized photo in every recruitment center across the land: free quality public school education, free quality higher education, free quality health care, child care and care for the elderly... And less scenes like this...

Sarah Palin Is A Person With Intellectual Disabilites

The Queen  of Wasilla

Actually, that's satire, because what Sarah Palin truly is, is a lying, two faced, bald faced liar. And hypocrite extraordinaire, since anyone over five knows that Family Guy is also... satire.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"Imagine- Niggers Speaking French!"

That was former Secretary of State (and anti-evolution Scopes trial lawyer) William Jennings Bryan's rather succint asssessment of Haiti. Join John Maxwell for a slightly more sober and illuminating explanation as to why Haiti has been the economic basket case of the ages.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Canteen Photo Competition

I don't have much luck in photo competitions, and I don't enter many. Unfortunately, hope springs eternal, so sometimes I do go through the motions for those I kid myself into thinking I've got half a chance in hell at. So I'll refrain from going into the details (again) of how my submission was once "accidentally discarded with the recycling-" although I still haven't forgiven myself for actually having entered a Planet magazine contest at $15 per photo...

So it was incredible to get this email the other day from Stephen Pierson, publisher of Canteen magazine, who has taken a rather novel and refreshing approach to running a competition. I asked him if I could run it here, or if that would be considered trying to "curry favor." He assured me it was not a problem, the judges far removed and sequestered in isolation booths. So by all means, take a shot, enter and support what certainly seems a rather fresh and perhaps model approach towards replacing the usual money grab endeavor where contestants are treated as chattel!

Dear entrants:
We at Canteen are tired of photography competitions that are judged entirely behind locked darkroom doors. This lack of transparency routinely allows friends, cousins, former interns, and the occasional love interest of judges to win photography competitions.

In response, we are trying to foster a spirit of openness with our small contest. In that spirit, an update:
So far we have received 42 entries. 35 of these entrants have uploaded images.
You can view all uploaded images here:
We will try to update this page twice per week.
Keep in mind that these are not final submissions--they may be altered up until our midnight February 28 deadline.
Email me if you wish to have your images removed from this listing, or posted more anonymously.
Let me know if you have any questions or feedback.
Thanks for entering!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Eva Leitolf- Looking For Evidence

Pond, Viersen, 2007

A twenty-two-year-old man told the police in Viersen that on 10 July 2006 he had been verbally abused and physically assaulted by four young men on account of his skin colour. He said that he had succeeded in defending himself and getting away. The state security department of the Mönchengladbach police took charge of the investigation but was unable to identify any of the perpetrators.
I don't get bowled over by many photography books anymore- perhaps for several reasons: they aren't as "rare" as they used to be; they aren't as "good" as they used to be; it's all been done before and twice on the internet; my soul is dead and housed in a rotting shell. Any of those a possible reason. So I was several steps beyond elated gazing upon Eva Leitolf's Looking For Evidence. And I'll confess right here and now that this "review" comes from all of ten minutes that I spent with it in my arms. Why didn't I buy it? It cost $65, a serious dent considering my current income, so I walked around the block rationalizing how I could rationalize said purchase, and when I returned, SFMOMA was closed (and good thing too, since I was able to find it half price via said internet).

Looking For Evidence is one of the most beautiful photography books I've ever seen, and the quality of  the reproductions, absolutely outstanding! Viewing them online is a distinct disservice to the grandeur Eva Leitolf's large format images convey. And just what is the subject matter that is so beautifully captured and portrayed- grand scenic vistas, natural scenic wonders? They are essentially banal and vacant crime scenes- inconspicuous corners, streets, and crossings in Germany where racial assaults, beatings and confrontations had recently occurred. There is no telling evidence left to be examined, no remnants to suggest- it seems Eva Leitolf has literally commanded these photographs to captivate and sustain our interest through sheer force of will. Her straight forward compositions are often bolstered by a vibrant color palette, but basically what she has pulled off is a conceptual tour de force- visually entrancing one with an otherwise mundane sight unseen infamous only for something it cannot possibly portray.

Perhaps this is what is meant by a viable alternative to the current in your face tragedy journalism. And it is easy to understand why it is not exactly common practice- one doesn't cover a news event well after the "decisive moment" has long left the building. But it is not entirely without precedent. Simon Norfolk and a small handful of other photographers have covered events after the fact in a somewhat similar fashion, and Joel Sternfeld's On This Site covered much the same territory with the exact same technique back in '96, but his subject matter was more varied and his photographs considerably more pedestrian- so many of Leitolf's images however, manage to resonate profoundly even when one is completely unaware of their historic, and quite horrific, context.

By the village pond, Pömmelte, 2007

The son of an Ethiopian man and a German woman who lived in a children's home in Pömmelte was verbally abused in a bus by five juveniles on 9 January 2006. When the twelve-year-old got off the bus in Pömmelte, the group followed him several hundred metres through the village before maltreating him for more than an hour at the village pond. He was spat upon, beaten and kicked with army boots. The perpetrators forced him to lick their boots and trainers and to answer questions with 'Yes, my Führer'. The ringleader threatened him with a gas pistol and throttled him, while another urinated on his head. He was subjected to a tirade of verbal abuse. The boy suffered thirty-four injuries, including craniocerebral trauma and a broken nose, and had to spend a week in hospital. The court found that the sixteen- to twenty-year-olds had sadistically tormented and gravely injured their victim for racist reasons, and sentenced the ringleader to three and a half years youth custody. Three other accused were given suspended sentences. In response to the crime the anti-fascist alliance in Schönebeck and Magdeburg called a demonstration in Schönebeck on 25 February 2006 under the slogan 'Don't look the other way, intervene!' At the same time the Young National Democrats and other local right-wing groups organised a counter-demonstration entitled 'Stop the media hate campaigns! They talk about Nazis but they mean all us Germans!'

Friday, February 12, 2010


My wife takes great pleasure in taunting me about the messages on poles I stop to investigate and occasionally photograph. The ones that do make it to print usually contain some absurd or ironic content with a background I can live with. This is the exception, I just like the graphics.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

200,000 GM Monsanto Complicit Suicides

Powerless to battle the monstrosity called Monsanto that drove them into debt and starvation in the twilight of their lives, many of those same Indian farmers sent the loudest possible protest at their disposal against the overwhelming torrent of corporate denial aimed against them- committing suicide by the very insecticide Monsanto forced upon them.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fish Tank

Fish Tank by Andrea Arnold is a coming of age movie set in one of many anonymous projects in England, and is not unlike a white, British version of last year's Precious (with a much thinner protagonist). Which reminds me- Mo'Nique sure as hell better win an Oscar for her bitch mama from hell role. But I digress...

Fifteen year old Mia wants desperately out of that fish tank project, and with no hope in sight she dreams of making it out with her dancing skills, only problem- she has none. The film is wonderfully unsentimental, and allows the viewer insight into how such an emotionally and intellectually stifling environment can eviscerate the humanity out of anyone with hope. Mia can go either way in life at this point, like so many other countless kids in her situation world over. And as is usually the case, the prognosis is not good...

Monday, February 8, 2010

If Ever There Was A Re...

...publican of questionable intellect- and ethics (well, one wouldn't belong to the Grand Ole Party if not for complete lack of the latter). Sarah not only demands Emanuel should be fired for using the word "retard," she then goes on to excuse and endorse Limbaugh's use of it... Then she ridicules Obama's use of a teleprompter, while writing crib notes on her hand to facilitate her junior high school ideology...

Honestly, how can any so called "adult" not see the slime of hypocrisy oozing from every pore and orifice of these people?

Saturday, February 6, 2010


Haiti Aftermath: A Look Back at the First Week

(AP Photo/MINUSTAH, Marco Dormino)

If the Superbowl aint your "bag" this Sunday, you can still look forward to a live, on line discussion at The Bag News Salon this Sunday, February 7 @ 3:00-4:30 pm EST...

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Alan George and Kirk Crippens @ Rayko

Photos: Alan George

Rayko in The San Francisco Bay Area has a  three person show, two of which I could look at long and repeatedly. Both Alan George and Kirk Crippens concentrate on subject matter within the suburban landscape that has become quite telling of our modern economic reality. Alan George's essay, Wheeled Estate focuses on camper vans- not the grand liesure vehicles of family vacations, but those that serve as primary habitats, the last vehicles of hope and refuge between occupant and street. These mobile homes are usually to be found on the outskirts of the city environs (in this case San Francisco) where everyday eyes are less prone to see either them, or their marginalized occupants. Rather than turn the blind eye however, Alan George celebrates their unique personalities and personas, transforming them from anonymous eyesores into individual works of art that could also be quite revelatory about those they shelter.

Photos: Kirk Crippens

Kirk Crippens turns his eye towards the barren, foreclosure wasteland that has become sunny Stockton, CA. Seems one can stay well within the confines of surburban USA rather than travel to far off Pripyat or Chernobyl to take in startlingly deserted vistas of abandonment and despair. Of course, it was economic fallout, rather than atomic, that laid waste to a large section of Stockton. And Crippens captures the aftermath in his grand vistas, both indoors and out. One of the most jarring photographs is of what has to be the largest tumbleweed in existence (looking every bit the escaped radioactive Hollywood movie mutant) that stands silently entrapped within a vacant backyard. Unfortunately, some of his prints are a bit too large to be fully appreciated in the rather narrow confines of where they are displayed at Rayko- something that I hope is remedied at his concurrent exhibit beginning today at the SFMOMA's Artists Gallery

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The '70s: Photography and Everyday Life

The '70s: Photography and Everyday Life is both a refreshing and nostalgic review of a small slice of the diversity that was photography in the '70s. And make no doubt, as diverse as the photography is in this book, it is but a small, very small representation of what was going on in that decade.  A decade that first brought photography to the forefront of the art world, only to have itself reinvented yet again under the guise of color photography!

It would be very easy to Conscientiously isolate a stereotypical B&W street photographer from that era and proclaim his work representative of the entire period- that would be as accurate as proclaiming Leroy Neiman its premier painter, or Ryan McGinley the photographic icon of the first ten years of this century. One of the great things about this digital age is being able to bookmark anything and everything available to us online- and how  many photographers today do not have some kind of digital presence? True there may have been fewer photographers back then, but certainly not a lack of approaches, or styles- and unfortunately, it's now often hard if not impossible to find many of the photographers who prominently graced the gallery walls of that era. I would hunt out The Village Voice back then just to gaze in awe at the weekly portrait by James Hamilton (who preceded Slvia Plachy there)- one of photography's premier portraitists who could coax strikingly compelling visuals from the most basic of compositions. And yet not one book, website or retrospective today celebrates his contribution.

One could just as easily argue that color photography today is in as big a rut as B&W ever was- or that neither particularly was, nor is. And you'd be hard pressed to find any kind of photographic "style" (short of that derived from digital specific technology) that wasn't practiced, refined or even initiated back in that golden analogue era.

A Rose By Any Other Name...

Peter Brook of Prison Photography emailed this to me yesterday; and debate and discuss all you want, and I mean that sincerely- it definitely needs be. But the one thing that cannot be ignored, debated or disguised is that this venture is specifically tailored to profit from the misery of others... (and as far as this tragedy is concerned- it aint even the first).

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Monday, February 1, 2010

Why People Vote Against Their Own Best Interest

Why are so many American voters enraged by attempts to change a horribly inefficient system that leaves them with premiums they often cannot afford? Why are they manning the barricades to defend insurance companies that routinely deny claims and cancel policies?

I'd simply narrow it down to two words: FEAR and IGNORANCE.
But of course, there's more... As the saying goes, in politics, when you are explaining, you are losing.

"It's like a French Revolution in reverse in which the workers come pouring down the street screaming more power to the aristocracy."