Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Someone Should Be Able To Do This...

I find it somewhat hard to believe that with all the computer technology that has transpired in the last ten plus years, that this footage cannot be proven either fake- or undoctored. Many of the commenters "prove" it's fake because the UFO wobbles. You'd think they'd realize that someone sophisticated enough to manufacture this clip could have just as easily not made it wobble if they so wanted. Interestingly, many eyewitnesses who've seen UFO's have commented on how they wobble when near the ground before zooming off to where ever it is they go.

...It would have been easier to make a UFO that did not wobble. It would have been easier yet if it did not rotate. Still easier if it did not pass behind a building. Even easier if the camera did not shake. Even easier if the camera did not zoom. Still easier if the UFO did not white-out in the smog. Still easier if it did not have the fuzzy boundary. Even easier if it did not grow bigger and smaller as it travels...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Poor, Unfortunate Rich- Won't You Please Help!?

Photo: Tanyth Berkeley

So Dominique Browning, the editor of House and Garden, finds herself unemployed! Since she doesn't have to worry about... actually having to get a job to support her loathsome, self pitying self, she quickly gets bored and doesn't know what to do with her sorry ass self (other than obsess about eggs).

This rich bitch bastard has the absolute nerve to write this drivel while thousands of formerly hard working (and underpaid) unemployed and homeless are out on the streets, without a prospect, surviving on god knows what for god knows how long- as she ponders her new life of leisure walking the beach during the day and playing Bach at night on her piano in her one remaining home...

 And The NY Times has the balls to publish it!

I have wasted 20 minutes on reading this. Now I am leaving for a job interview that I hope will lead to work -- otherwise I won't be able to eat or live in a room or pay my child support or my other bills that I can't pay now. How's that for real problems? The poor know the meaning of life: the rich and safe have to guess. Or write whiny stories like this.  
Comment #59--jk, NYC

Monday, March 29, 2010

Lisa Wood- Insect Dioramist

Lisa Wood, wife, artist and premier insect diorama maker of these United States has earned her own page (several actually) at Gold Bug...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sometimes That 1,000 Word Thang Really Does Ring True...

Dubyah shamelessly demonstrates that Democrats really are good for something as he wipes his hand on former President Clinton immediately after shaking hand of Haitian...

Of course, you can easily find the video of him wiping off his glasses on the shirt of an assistant on the Letterman set some years ago, so this certainly isn't the first time--- What this pattern does show is how this wretched excuse of a man so readily wipes off life's smaller "indignities" on the backs of others. I'd like to say we can only imagine how he manages with life's biggies- but after having gone through eight, very long and miserable years of finding out exactly how far he'd go...
(The wipe of the century comes a scant 14 seconds into it- via HuffPo)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Unfinished Business...

Amazing citizen journalism story from the... '40s- on NPR via Amy Stein's blog!

Photo: Charlie Lord
Meanwhile, the USA of the 21st century started with more than 44,000 Americans dying every year simply because they have no health insurance. A situation that our brand new health care bill still does not fully address...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Big or Little, Two or Twenty?

It's uplifting to hear how many current, name photographers are into promoting work in book format- some even stating that it's their preferred medium of presentation. And yet, when you see their work at a gallery, it's presented in prints so large, they can barely fit a dozen prints in the entire gallery- if that. I have nothing against wall sized prints per se, one of the most incredible photographs (and photographic experiences) I've ever witnessed was a wall sized photo of Mitch Epstein's from American Power.

But it's a bit disappointing to go see a show of work you really like, only to be greeted with a handful of mural sized prints that devour gallery wall space and can be observed from across  the room- buy the book if you want a clue as to how the work functions as a theme, an essay, a body of work.

After seeing that super nova of a Mich Epstein print at SFMOMA, I then had the dubious distinction of seeing the Henry Wessel exhibit in the very next room. How would B&W prints no larger than 16X20 compete against such grandiose magnificence? Very well.

One had to walk up to his impeccably printed photographs and make a conscious, deliberate effort to... look at and study them, only then did their details start to reveal their secrets, only then do you start to appreciate what a truly intimate and personal revelation the whole experience can be... Like looking at individual photographs in a book- only with really, really good reproductions.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Bedrooms of the Fallen- Ashley Gilbertson

Photo: Ashley Gilbertson

The policy of embedding photographers has been a double edged sword- while it has often  prevented photographers from getting many of the "no holds" barred type of conflict photographs that were prevalent in keeping us truly informed, as in the Viet Nam era and many a war since, it has also effectively forced photojournalists to seek out other avenues of much needed reflection and communication.  Some of these efforts such as Nina Berman's Purple Hearts have been quite powerful in exploring the more lasting and devastating effects of war, while others (IMHO) seem to reflect that very inability to capture something slightly more relevant.

Bedrooms of the Fallen  as featured recently in The NY Times has no doubt struck a chord in all who have seen it. The concept is novel, and yet obvious upon reflection, the photographs- hauntingly powerful in their minimalism. All together that makes for one very unique, poignant and moving essay...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Small Rewards- Pet Cemetery Scans Pt.ll

As promised, some more scans from Small Rewards (ten down, thirty to go):

Pets' Rest Cemetery- Colma, CA

Presidio Pet Cemetery- SF, CA

Pets' Rest

Wantagh, NY

Pets' Rest

Friday, March 19, 2010

African Proverb (via Marc Riboud)

The foreigner sees only what he knows.

We Stand On The Cusp Of One Of Humanity's Most Dangerous Moments

...We mistook style and ethnicity – an advertising tactic pioneered by the United Colors of Benetton and Calvin Klein – for progressive politics and genuine change... This is the essence of successful advertising. You buy or do what the advertisers want because of how they can make you feel.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

On Parr

I have known Marin Parr for almost 20 years and during that time I have observed his career with interest. He is an unusual photographer in the sense that he has always shunned the values that Magnum was built on. Not for him any of our concerned ‘finger on the pulse of society’ humanistic photography. He preached against us and was bold enough to deride us in print while his career as an ‘art’ photographer mushroomed…When he applied for associate membership I pointed out that our acceptance of him into Magnum would be more than simply taking on another photographer. It would be the embracing of a sworn enemy whose meteoric rise in Magnum was closely linked with the moral climate of Thatcher’s rule. His penchant for kicking the victims of Tory violence cause me to describe his pictures as ‘fascistic’ … Today he wants to be a member. The vote will be a declaration of who we are and a statement of how we see ourselves. His membership would not be a proclamation of diversity but the rejection of those values that have given Magnum the status it has in the world today. Please don’t dismiss what I am saying as some kind of personality clash. Let me state that I have great respect for him as the dedicated enemy of everything I believe in and, I trust, what Magnum still believes in.
-Phillip Jones Griffiths

Which pair of eyes would you trust?

Traditionally the portrayal of poverty has been the domain of the ‘concerned photographer’, but I photograph wealth in the same spirit.  -Martin Parr

Like Parr, the best "concerned photographers" are also just as enthusiastic and "concerned" with getting as artistic an image as possible- although admittedly, their subject matter isn't quite as prone to ridicule, scorn or outright contempt. The irony in "concerned photography" is based on how so called civilized society can deal with and often allow such injustice, inequality and atrocity. The irony in Parr's Luxury essay is in how the rich and wealthy carry themselves about so totally self absorbed and self centered, and that despite their wealth and education, are none the wiser parodies of the under educated and often equally  materially obsessed "lower classes" they pridefully raise their noses at. And Parr certainly doesn't mind letting his dayglo color images of the rich and richer gently sway and twist in the wind at their own expense. No, he'll never be mistaken for your traditional concerned photographer, but he certainly can, at times, balance the same equation.

The only people I could empathize (and sympathize) with in Luxury.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Coulda Fooled Me...

Photo by person other than Richard Prince

Much has recently been made about the issue of (photo) plagiarism. And not to make light of the issue, but for whatever reason, I just can't get too worked up about this- particularly when someone the likes of Richard Prince can so blatantly steal and appropriate an image with such little consequence (other than being rewarded with a small fortune).

Photographers are often indoctrinated with the mantra that the very slightest variance of exposure, angle or quality of light can ever so subtly, or profoundly, affect the ultimate meaning or nature of that photograph. Perhaps it is that very indoctrination that prevents me from getting too excited about plagiarism- and from allowing a more standardized means of defining and identifying what actually constitutes photographic plagiarism.

Meanwhile, I'm surprised this interesting little experiment involving none other than Martin Parr has gone so under reported. While not directly related to plagiarism, it certainly does raise some interesting questions as to how a unique signature style and vision can be gradually disseminated unto the public's visual vernacular.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Charles Moore- RIP

Some things change-  This was photojournalism's hay days, when a less well connected world struggled and strained to keep current and informed...

And some things don't-  "It got international attention immediately. In the case of America, it took a lot longer-" Carolyn McKinstry.

I was going to write how it's so much harder to keep things secret these days, and leave it at that. And though that may well be true, all you need do is look around, no matter where you may be, to realize that people still gonna believe exactly what they wanna believe- truth be damned!

That's why people like Charles Moore should forever be honored and remembered...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

BLURBed... Small Rewards

People have been telling me that I should go Blurb myself for some time now, and round July of last year I finally made up my mind to do just that. Took a while, but I finally got round to making 40 odd scans from silver negs and putting the whole damn thing together. So what's it like getting Blurbed?

Like everyone, when it comes to Blurb, I've seen some great books, and those anything but (content and quality wise)- the vast majority in color. I received my first copy of Small Rewards this week and just sent back the tweeked version which I then made "public." The first version was very... promising; the glossy cover looked great, and most of the B&W reproductions on the inside looked- OK. Some needed very obvious tweeking, but my worst fears were negated- for $30 bucks you can get a reasonable representation of your work in book format. And that aint bad!

Forget about deep, rich, sensuous blacks and endless gradations- it's caveman B&W, but it gets the job done. Good news, highlights don't get blown out- but as for deeper tonal values and shadows, well.... all my tweeking was to open up shadow areas, and add contrast. Reproductions run towards the dark side, so scans should be a tad lighter (and choose the deluxe paper).  That said, I'm sure someone more Photoshop savvy than I, with a calibrated monitor, etc, etc could no doubt get more refined images out of it. But I can only speak of my own admittedly primitive experience. And while I initially wanted to print one photo per two pages, that turned out to be cost prohibitive. The resulting soft cover 40 page "book" is so thin, it's as much pamphlet as book, and they're not gonna go flying off the virtual shelves and make ya rich (even if you tack on an add. one or two bucks for yourself in the price)- but again, for $30 bucks (incl ship) you got something representative in a very portable (in this case, 8X10 in) book format.

You can preview the book on the link above or through the book link on the right hand side, and I'll be removing my old, down and dirty Pet Cemetery scans from Flickr and gradually replacing them with the new and improved versions which I'll also be posting here, probably in groups of five...

BTW--  The SX-70 color photo is the only color photo in the book- and it's on the back cover only... All other photos, Nikons and Tri-X w/20mm and 16mm Nikkors.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Wayne Cochran!!!

Having already experienced the totality that was James Brown at an early age, I can vaguely recollect the sheer trauma of accidentally coming upon Wayne Cochran on TV as a fragile, impressionable prepubescent of the '60s.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

You Be The Judge?

Ever judge a photo competition? I got a brief taste when I was co-editing Expiration Notice, and now the good people at Canteen are further opening the doors to the whole competition process by allowing the participants to vote for their faves. Pretty cool. Not that you or I will have final say, but one can peruse the actual submissions and get a general feel of what it's like to pick and choose, judge, reject, and decide.

Now, you may, like me, find that you start making your own random, idiosyncratic categories, such as:

1)  The This Is What Everybody Else Is Doing Category
2)  The I Just Shot These This Weekend And I Think They Came Out Pretty Good Category
3)  The Almost But Just Not Quite Category
4)  The Holy Fucking Hell, What In God's Holy Name Were They Ever Possibly Thinking? Category
5)  The Wow! This Shit's Great! Category

Obviously, the last two are the most fun. There are over a hundred submissions- and you know which one mine falls in...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Eva Leitolf- An Interview

I've never been much for those overblown, oversyllabificated pontifications that preface artists monographs. So often they seem to exist for little more than their own sake. Fortunately, we're spared such grand soliloquies in Looking for Evidence- although one would be operating at a distinct loss without reading the highly relevant captions that accompany each image. I was first stunned by the sheer beauty of Eva Leitolf's photographs, seduced by the quality of light and the tranquility of the images. It was only upon reading said captions, that I wanted to know more...

Fortunately, Eva Leitolf obliged. And even though I would hesitate to call this a "formal" interview, it certainly helps explain, at least in part, why this work, so seemingly detached, is so hauntingly effective.

State road, Weihenlinden, 2007
On 16 May 1999 there was a serious road accident on state road 2078, where all five Turkish occupants of the car were killed. Two days later a driver discovered a poster at the scene of the accident bearing a swastika and the words 'the moral of the story - dead Turks don't bother us'. The poster was secured by the police and examined forensically, but the investigation remained inconclusive.

SB:  What first interested you in racial/immigration issues? When did you first think of integrating those concerns with your photography?

EL:  Back in 1992, I was studying photography in Essen and needed to make a decision on the subject of my diploma project.
At that time numerous racist or xenophobically motivated crimes were committed in Germany and I was dissatisfied with the way most of the German news media dealt with it. It was the same picture everywhere: before the crimes occurred there was a massive use of xenophobic metaphors both in pictures and texts (“the boat is full” kind of thing), followed by cover photographs like the one of a seemingly helpless border patrol officer trying to keep a flood of immigrants out of the country (Der Spiegel titled this as “the helpless state”). After the arson attacks, and other racist crimes were committed throughout the country, “The Nazi Kids” made it to the magazine covers and TV news. In this scenario none of the rest of us, of the rest of society, had anything to do with it.
My interest in the subject was closely connected to an interest in how pictures work and, in a more general sense, how meaning is produced through connotation.

SB: How did you come up with the concept of photographing such scenes of violence (depicted in Looking For Evidence) well after the fact? Did you  consider more traditional approaches? Were you aware of Joel Sternfield's On This Site?

EL:  German Images consists of two parts : an early part, from 1992 to 1994, and a recent part, from 2006 to 2008.
At the time I understood the early photographs as an attempt to look for what was there besides the Hitler-saluting skinheads. Going after the fact and to explore the locations beside was a direct reaction to my concerns with the simplistic narrative that was commonly put up by the German mainstream media.
Twelve years later I initially wanted to put a book together with this early work. It had been published in several anthologies but has never found its right form for me. During this process I looked back at several issues around the work that still seemed interesting to explore: the relation of photography and text, the tension between what can be seen, and what is left to the imagination, the way German society deals with racist and xenophobic violence today.
I was aware of Sternfield's On This Site but don´t relate to it too much. I think Sternfeld is rather trying to create a photographic memorial for crime victims than to talk structurally about of how societies deal with crimes, perpetrators or victims. I feel far more influenced by others, for example by Eugene Atget´s sense for the absence, Robert del Tredici´s thorough research practices and Allan Sekula´s theories - Sekula was one of my teachers at Cal Arts in the mid nineties.

SB:  One can't get over just how beautiful these photographs are! Were you ever worried that you would not be able to come up with a visually arresting image at a particular location?

EL: During the two years I was working on the new part of German Images, I traveled to a tremendous number of places that could have been part of the final project. The fact is that racist violence is reported almost everywhere in Germany, and you can find thousands of relevant incidents, both major and minor. So to answer your question more directly: I did not take pictures of all the places I went to.

SB:  What has been the overall reception to this work- from the "art world," news media, social organizations and activists, and last and not least, the immigrant community and those directly affected?

EL:  I can´t describe an overall reception. The work was shown in art venues like the Pinakothek der Moderne in München or the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum in St. Louis, in the US. It was well received by German art critics, got published in the Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin, but got nasty comments in letters to the editors. There were invitations by social or political organizations to show the work which I didn´t accept, because I had the feeling that the work would become exploited in a way I didn´t feel comfortable with. A big surprise to me were the many positive reactions I got via email from all over the world by people with very different backgrounds who came across German Images on photo blogs or on my website.

SB:  I've always been under the impression that Germany has rather comprehensive laws governing hate crimes/speech, esp those involving their Nazi past. And yet I couldn't help notice how many of the crimes reflected in your work were either unsolved or rather lightly punished- which seems to almost condone, or at least tolerate this behavior.  Is this common with respect to other areas of German law, or is this more reflective of the will and attitude of Germans in certain (geographical) areas when it comes to race/immigration?

EL:  There is probably no simple answer to that. The biggest issue in here doesn´t seem to be the legislature. As you said, there are comprehensive laws.
For example, in Rostock-Lichtenhagen, where I went in 1993, the neighbors had watched arson attacks on a housing centre for immigrants and the adjacent Vietnamese homes a year earlier, and applauded them. So it came as no surprise that I was told things like “the way our youngsters did it might not have been the best one, but somebody needed to act and do something about the immigrants”. There are comprehensive theories that an escalation in Rostock was politically intended or at least welcomed in order to speed up and influence the debate on German asylum laws at the beginning of the nineties.
While doing research twelve years later I personally encountered very many concerned and helpful people both within the police forces as well as the prosecution and judicial system. Nevertheless there seem to be problems within these fields as a number of cases suggest.

SB:  Would you consider using a similar approach for other projects? Or were you attracted to this project, at least in part, because you could approach it in such a "nontraditional" manner? What's in the immediate future?

EL: I am as interested in the subject matter of my projects as I am interested by the specific approaches that develop in the process of dealing with them. I can't think separately of one and the other.
For the past two years I have been looking at the European Union´s Schengen borders, their effects on migration and European societies. The working title for this project is Postcards from Europe and it is in some ways related to German Images – Looking for Evidence.

Thank you, Eva Leitolf...
British war cemetery, Kleve-Reichswalde, 2007
On 11 November 2001 a car with Dutch number plates was set alight on the car park opposite the main entrance to the war cemetery. The Dutch owner told the police that he had been playing the bagpipes in the cemetery when a man in a black bomber jacket and army boots aggressively demanded that he play something for a 'Rudolf Heinrich' whose birthday he said had been the week before. The Dutch man refused, and when he returned to his car a short while later he found it in flames. The state security police took charge of the investigation because the possibility of it being a political crime committed by rightwing extremists could not be excluded. They remained inconclusive.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Fun With Plastic...

There are 46,000 pieces of plastic in every 1 sq. mi. of ocean.

There is ten times more plastic than food organisms such as plankton in our oceans.

The United States produces 100 billion lbs. of plastic per year-- and recycles 5%...

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The PJ Blues

Seems every year we go through at least one chorus of "photojournalism's dead, played and buried, and we desperately need to reexamine, reinvigorate and reinvent the medium." Cell phones, tragedy porn and the alleged end of print media have all exasperated the situation. And then there are those who seem to infer that not only has it well outlived  it's usefulness, it's also guilty of the more heinous crime of outliving it's quasi art form status based on its grainy B&W origins.

Benjamin Chesterton of Duckrabbit has offered several viable suggestions and alternatives- more multi media type approaches (including the voices of those featured and photographed), as well as more regional reportage from those indigenous to specific areas.
For those clamoring for photojournalism with a different style and approach, it doesn't get more different than  Eva Leitolf's work- and why her Looking For Evidence hasn't garnered more attention (than I'm aware of) is beyond me. Fortunately, Eva was gracious enough to answer a few questions and grant us some insight into the background and execution of this most unique and intriguing work- which will be presented here this Tuesday... 

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Remakable Life- Oscar Micheaux

The corner stone of The Great American Mythology is that of The Self Made Man- the American everyman (usually an immigrant) who starts from scratch and with much hard work, luck, and more often than not, a willingness not to let the niceties of ethics and humanity get in the way, pulls himself up by his bootstaps and rises to the top of the heap. Whatever the heap may be that he wishes to heap himself upon. 

The very last thing those people want to hear is that there are those who struggled against even greater odds that they never had to encounter, never had to endure, never had to overcome. It makes their story just that much smaller- second rate really. No one wants to hear that someone else had to overcome everything you did... including some crazy ass X factor that has leveled many a better man low- racism.

And nothing infuriates a bigot more than deflating the very basis surrounding the delusional myth of their great American work ethos manhood.

I thought about this when listening to this NPR pesentation on Oscar Micheaux. Driven, conflicted, in triumph or defeat. His legacy endures; unfortunately, so do many of the obstacles he traversed, though ever shifting, ever morphing, and thus far ever present.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Photography Can & Can't...

I don't believe that photography can change the world, but it can show the world changing.  -Elliott Erwitt

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Aperture Magazine- Spring Issue

I don't buy many photo magazines, the commercial rags are... well, just that. And the "art" leaning periodicals are usually blatantly diverse smorgasbords at prices approaching a finely reproduced monograph. The current Spring Issue of Aperture however is one exceptional package of photographic goods. Interviews with Elliot Erwitt, Marc Riboud and Anders Petersen; photo essays by Robert Voit and John Gossage. And an extremely moving piece on the Iraqi Diaspora featuring the remarkable work of Paolo Pellegrin. Along with a bunch of yet more good stuff that make the $15 asking price, if not acceptable, fairly reasonable...

Teabagger's Delight...

Some body should slap this son of a bitch upside the head, cut his pension and health benefits, and (the ultimate humiliation) make him use public transport. Is this guy Conservative enough for ya, fiscally responsible enough for yas- you dumb ass, Tea Bagging Twits.