Thursday, September 30, 2010

"I bought a photography magazine that taught me how to click the shutter. That was all I needed."

Photo: Oscar Fernando Gomez

Seems Lee Friedlander's not the only guy who can frame a scene using the interior of a car. The 200th issue of Aperture magazine has a nice little feature on Oscar Fernando Gomez, a Mexican wedding photographer and taxi driver who has also effectively employed the technique. While Friedlander's America By Car more fully explores how to use the car's interior architecture to complement that of the outside world, Gomez uses the passenger side window as the frame of choice to immortalize everyday moments into one very effective typology. He may not be as diverse or prolific as Friedlander, but it's amazing how often he's still able to pull it off.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Insanity Within Us All...

War is insanity even under the best of circumstances- and what constitutes "best circumstances" during a war is beyond me, since many would say the part when you're just sitting and waiting for the shit to hit is even worse than the actual fighting. Atrocities, of course, occur even under the most "just" and defensible of wars. So it comes as little surprise that a bunch of twenty year old's in an unjustifiable war with no real means of winning, somewhere in some godforsaken hillside just happen to bug out, lose it, and go down their own separate and equally insane road of destruction and homicide

This is exactly what happens when you are put in an impossible situation, a situation that continues year after unrelentingly murderous year with no clear end in sight, no definition of victory and no clear distinctions between the bad guys you're supposed to kill, the blatantly corrupt guys you're sent to fight with- and the remaining innocents you're meant to "protect," and end up killing just the same- sometimes even on purpose. When everyone looks like everyone else, everyone can get shot, and everyone usually does.

I am by no way excusing these guys or their despicably heinous actions- I would have probably lost it way before them. And could only hope to be as brave as her...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Few Thoughts On A Murderous Work Of Art...

Artist: Gil Vicente

Perhaps it's only meant to be an artist's fantasy. But think about it, really think about it...

One of the men drawn above is responsible for the deaths of thousands of completely innocent men, women and children, and the life long maiming and mutilation of thousands more- all under false pretense, all for the sake of greed. If you could have prevented all those meaningless deaths, saved even "only" a few hundred innocent lives- would you have pulled the trigger had you the opportunity depicted above?

Stan- taking another's life (unless in self defense) is morally reprehensible, under any circumstances. Yes, it is pilgrim. It most certainly is. But before you walk away all clean of thought and deed- how you feeling about the thousands you allowed him to kill? You had the chance to stop babies being torn apart and you did nothing. You simply walked after a very terse and simplistic argument. What if the condemnation of your immortal soul allows for the salvation of thousands? Hhmmm?

But Stan, it's easy now knowing how everything transpired- no one knew for sure there were no WMD. Yes, they did. Without a doubt they did- and very few chose to hear it. No one was cheering for them, God did not place the flag of truth and justice upon them. Regardless, who elected you god, jury and executioner? No one, but if so concerned of the life of one murderer (two if you commit the crime- if such it would be called), why are you so dismissive of the thousands you condemned?

OK, enough of the mind games. Yeah, it's the old Hitler question, and I'm certainly not the first to pose or ask it. Besides, if someone had shot Bush, they most certainly would have had to do Cheney as well. So then, where would it stop, Stan? Oh, that would have definitely gotten the message through all right. No rich bastard alive wants to start a war if their own life is at stake. But on to the art...

You can depict the detailed torture and execution of however many people you want, whichever way you want, and show it on screen before millions with a socially approved R rating. But a charcoal drawing of a man holding a gun to a recognized political mass murderer remains very much verboten. Anonymous violence for fun and profit is one thing, suggesting violence on the real world power structure is quite another...

After all, we're civilized folk, are we. Had Gil Vicente shot Bush in reality, it would be the artist whom history would forever recount as killer.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Alyssa Peterson- A Person Most Honorable

 A name, a person, we should all know, and respect- something she afforded all who came into contact with her, not the blind respect of authority that the military instills (which amounts to little more than a false sense of freedom from culpability, if not outright cowardice) but the fundamental respect that should be afforded all humanity. Something that made her brave and righteous enough to stand up to the all too predictable consequences of blind authority.

Authoritarian institutions like the military often like to pay lip service to higher moral codes in the service of honor, here was someone who actually lived their very life by it- and could not do otherwise...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Blurb and Beyond...

Quite a few people have complained about Blurb's printing inconsistencies, and as I've noted before- for the price concerned... But I (at least) haven't heard many complaints about the construction/production of the books themselves. My print quality has been consistent, but I got one copy where (upon close inspection) you could tell it was not cut evenly. My wife however, recently ordered ten of their smallest format books, and if you stood across the room, you could obviously and immediately notice that five of them were absolute trapezoids! The graphics weren't crooked- they were actually cut crooked, way crooked The most cursory of glances would have made this blatantly apparent, and yet they were shipped off nonetheless.. To their credit, Blurb asked her to email photos of the freaks and then sent out five uniformly measured square format books at no charge. But it really does make one wonder just what the quality controls are- in this case, if any!

 Layout from “This Is Not My Sky” by Noah Beil

Those of you at all interested in viewing alternative ways on how to independently make your own photobook (as opposed to the tried and "truelike" Blurb norm) might well be interested in Noah Beil's various processes (much of them handsomely illustrated)- and you think film's retro? Yeah, it's uhh... labor intensive, but if you want complete control to make something truly unique, yes, the love and effort do pay off in the end- I know, not because I myself have undergone this particular effort, but because I'm fortunate enough to own one of these uniquely satisfying wonders.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Color Oblivion?

I've been taking photographs for round about 35 yrs now, pretty much whenever I can- time wise, money wise, etc, etc... I don't kid myself about my "legacy," but I think I managed to hit a few, meager high notes along the way. As for what it's all worth, well, that's another bag o' beans- and probably worth as much...

And though I've certainly enjoyed playing around with an SX-70 on occasion, one thing's for sure, my forte, if any, certainly aint color. But when I heard that Rayko was going to have a show featuring Kodachrome imagery, my thoughts turned to my one and only photo in my "official" print portfolio that, well, just happens to be color. Finally, she would make her debut after all these long and many years (and I think you know where this is going)... only to find she had, alas, faded into yellow oblivion. The fact that she was sitting pretty in my acid free Spink & Gaborc did little to save her.

Nevertheless, through the miracle of digital technology (and the fact that the K64 chrome hasn't itself succumbed that much to the years)- I'll just take the opportunity to debut her here after some 32 years (as close as someone who knows nothing about color can match it to the original)...

 Dolly, 1978 

All this, of course, begs the much larger question- what, oh what, has happened (is happening) to all those huge fine art color prints in the hands of museums, galleries and collectors from the late'70s, '80s and '90s before the advent of digital pigment prints? 
I'm not exactly privy to the on goings of the fine art photography world, so I can only assume that this is a problem that has already been confronted and thus resolved (in a just and logical manner, no doubt... uh huh), or that it is an ongoing problem that few wish to openly discuss. Like I said, I have no idea. Perhaps:
  1. The artist supplies his gallery with free pigment replacements for faded prints, and the galleries in turn supply buyers with said free replacements- (can you read that with a straight face?)
  2. Replacements are supplied at modest moderate cost (like... Photoshop updates. Yeah, doubt that too)
  3. Caveat Emptor! Didn't you ever read the small print on the little snapshot envelopes back in the day- color dyes fade with time. Same shit; you lose Sucka! (that sounds about right).  
So have all concerned calmly taken their faded investments in stride as just another day's lesson learned? Just askin'...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


While many a photog is salivating over this soon to be digital retro-

I'd much rather have one of these 6x7 WA beauties- and check out the vertical lugs on that baby!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Just Askin'...

I was struck by a statement that was recently quoted at Conscientious concerning an ongoing photo essay on Richmond, CA by Paccarik Orue. He was photographing there when a resident, a middle aged African American woman, stopped to say, "There's nothing beautiful around here."

Photo: Paccarik Orue

Of course, one can simply dismiss that remark as reflective of the age old platitude that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder," and leave it at that. Unfortunately, there's no way to respond on Conscientious and it is a statement that's very much open to considerable reflection, interpretation- and misinterpretation.

Photojournalism has a long history of making its livelihood off the trials and tribulations of brown skinned people across the world. Areas of poverty, blight, desperation, and crisis- wars, famines, revolutions and every catastrophe imaginable, both natural and man made. Haiti being perhaps the most blatant of recent examples. And I'm certainly not implying that this is what Mr. Orue is pursuing. He states that, "I'm interested in creating work that stirs emotion about my subjects and that leaves the viewer with more questions than answers." He's young and FWIW, I happen to like this essay- but would I be as intrigued by it if it wasn't for that woman's statement or because I am, in fact, aware that Richmond is a community besieged by crime, foreclosure and unemployment? 

Is that Richmond resident just another example of the "uneducated" masses blind to the simple beauties of everyday life, is she just the "less fortunate" social equivalent of those making similarly bland observations about growing up in the sterile, "successful" environs of consumer obsessed suburbia? Or has everyday existence in an inner city environ reduced her to the observational level of mere survival?

Snapshots from another world are most exotic to those furthest away, and any photographer worth his salt knows that photographic beauty and the real deal are often two different beasts altogether- why so many grand scenic vistas make for such pretty (boring) picture post cards.  It's difficult enough to see the wonder and uniqueness in our everyday surroundings- it's considerably more difficult when those surroundings are forever lacking in resources and sometimes fraught with danger. Maybe someday, Mr. Orue's work will not only raise questions and stir up emotions, but also offer some viable insights.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Few Words From A Master...

And then some...

Every Dog Has His Day...

The first thing you have to realize before watching this clip is that former NY Republican Senator Al Damato was one of the biggest conservative dick wads ever to grace the political stage anywhere, so to have him call out a FOX clown pundit for his "racist bullshit" dramatically emphasizes just how off the wall, over the top and yes, racist, things have gotten in these United State, thanks in no small part to the contemptible, degenerate FOX.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind...

But BP's gonna make it whole, right? Now that it's been found, they're gonna clean it all up, right? Just like they promised. Just like our President promised, right... Right???

Friday, September 17, 2010

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

BLURB- Ya Gotta Be F~kin' Kidding Me!!!

Over the years, one learns to roll with current trends and tastes. And I aint sayin' it doesn't sometimes hurt to be kicked aside and ignored year after year without the slightest crumb thrown your way. But at my age, it doesn't take long to get over oneself- especially when you discover...

What the bloody hell!!! If work as good as The Donavans or Time And Space On The Lower East Side can't even rate a miserable Honorable Mention in Blurb's Photography Book Now- something is seriously wrong! Yeah, I know, it's all about individual taste. That can usually explain the absolute mediocrities that somehow make any list. But how do you explain... (Update- see below).

This is a Fine Art Runner Up?!?

Runner Up- as in above Honorable Mention. Which of the renowned, esteemed judges wants it to be known that they of sound body and mind, freely and purposely voted for this book as a "FINE ART RUNNER UP?"

What the Fuckitty Fuck Fuck!!!*

UPDATE: Thanks to Commenter Mike C who wrote in to restore some vestige of sanity- The Kittie Book in question is a People's Choice Award... Repeat- A People's Choice Award! The masses have spoken and my apologies to the highly esteemed judges (who still managed to make some pretty shitty calls)...

*(apologies to The Wire)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ernest Withers- Civil Rights Era Photographer &... FBI Informant?

Sad to say that none other than Ernest Withers, the photographer of the famed I Am A Man photograph, amongst others, was... an FBI informant (been wrong before- hope this somehow proven to be erroneous info).

Update: At this point, whether true or ugly slur, his work is not only of great historical significance, but as Mike Malloy suggested- obviously made with love. And I'll leave it at that...

What Every American Should Read...

Crazy, insane, or even worse- a... conspiracy?

 *(Thanks to The Mike Malloy Show)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

America: 1/3 Clueless, 1/3 Delusional, 1/3 Spineless

The first two thirds? Conservative, Republican, Libertarian, Tea Party... whatever their name, get use to 'em (again), cause they're probably coming back en force, due to the inherent spinelessness of the other third- Democrats.

And for those of you in these here states who don't listen to Mike Malloy- do yourself a favor, let off some steam, and have a few laughs before the whole ball o' wax goes down the shitter in quickstep...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Teacher's Lament

Sometimes, in quieter moments, I think back on the faces and lives I was thrown together with in my teaching days in NYC and Oakland, CA. Faces of lives in turmoil, many already on their way to the self destructive, institutionalization* that marked so many of their peers both before and after; lives often curtailed before the promise of adulthood.

Of course, one can't help but wonder what one contributed to those lives. Sometimes I believed, we (no one teaches in a vacuum) were the last, best hope in their lives- other times I felt myself a sham, a phony, the shameless front man of a most corrupt and pernicious shake down.

And mostly I began to feel the latter. After all, what had brought me into education in the first place, if not the very fact that I myself could not find employment elsewhere. The paper printed with my BA in Communications, Arts & Sciences worth less than that of a fake ID. Yet, there I was asking them to drink the kool aid, to believe the dream as I once did- once you develop your mind, hard work would no doubt ensure your success. Even if they did buy it- how many would be able to foot the bill for higher ed, secure the necessary scholarship, or compete with those already degreed, desperately battling each other for the remaining crumbs of economic opportunity? Many of the middle class and blue collar jobs of yesteryear had long evaporated to the shores of foreign nations, sent there by the very leaders who continued to propagate middle class virtues and values. And even I could no longer sell my own self that the dangerously short lived, high stakes drug trade was far less preferable to the "honest" lifestyle of prolonged poverty in a fast food/customer service "career." Just how does one sell that particular jewel of advice in times when short term profit ruled the entire bubble of our nation's "legit" and soon to be collapsing economic model?

Yes, I still hold on to the hallowed belief that higher education is key to the overall "success" formula- which is why it must be free as it once was, and of certain quality, as it always must be. But it is obviously not the end game, and it offers as hollow a promise as any drug you choose if legitimate employment opportunity is non existent. For every success story from the inner city that is lauded and exemplified, the thousands upon thousands of others that could not possibly overcome obstacles insurmountable to most of the population are left to be ignored, forgotten and ultimately demonized.

Our prison industrial complex now offers entire towns their livelihoods "caring" for the fully grown results of our failed educational and economic systems. Our military industrial complex now vastly exceeds the combined budgets of all our enemies, both real and imagined, as we now begin to feel the effects of that financial albatross of repression and destruction- as did the Soviet Union, England, and Rome before us. History, fallible human history repeats itself anew, as we of these United States continue to clamor for yet more of the very policies, the very leadership that brought us down this highway of fiscal and social insanity.

This legacy of catastrophe that we are now only beginning to endure, both economic and environmental, is one that was, in fact, preventable- had we only been less shortsighted, less greedy, less... childlike.

*My students had already been labeled, marginalized and segregated into Spec. Ed. classes.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Why Americans Choose To Screw Themselves Into Oblivion...

Written back in the "better times"of 2004, and every bit as relevant on this Labor Day Weekend 2010. A step by step analysis...  of why Americans continue to kick themselves in the butt.

Yes, sir! May I have another...

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The American Way

I went to see The American last night (which, by the way, has one of the best death scenes in any film) at the local megaplex, and noticed a sign stating that you had to show ID proving you were 25 yrs old to see an R rated movie. Not 18, or even 21... but 25!*

So I ask the the ticket counter girl, "So let me get this straight- you can legally kill for your country at eighteen, but you can't look at pretend killing until you're 25?" She looked at me as she handed me my tickets and said, "Theater 13, 8 o'clock."

*And don't get me started that you can't legally have a beer till 21 in this country, or that... torturing, mutilating and killing someone onscreen in graphic, step by step detail is R rated, but showing two people with exposed genitalia in the act of procreation is automatically X rated- sick country.

Friday, September 3, 2010

War Hero Myth V Reality...

 Who's the kid?

Although thoroughly and innately opposed to war (particularly the "voluntary" type- and, yes, I much rather laud the efforts of "working class heroes"), there are, nevertheless, some desperately awesome things that human beings do when thrust into the absolute insanity that is war. Hollywood chooses to accentuate the visual and glamorize the "warrior ethos;" the reality is much more mundane, the destruction  prevalent well beyond the battlefield...

Perhaps one day, Hollywood, The History Channel, Washington, DC, etc will focus less on wartime theatrics and more on the heroism of those at home who choose to challenge the policies of death, the economics of greed, and the worship of all things material- America's one true religion.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Is This A Cover Shot???

I mean really... seriously... I've seen some very innovative and even memorable sports photography that sometimes helped define a generation. But this I just don't get, and Guy Bourdin it sure aint...