Monday, February 28, 2011

How Much, How Often?

Colin Pantall has had some great posts (here and here) on what I suspect is one of photography's better kept secrets; scratch that, it's no secret- one of its most feared no go areas. Namely, the fact that it costs so freakin' much!!! A zillion and one photography blogs all over the goddamn blogosphere and how many posts does one ever see challenging how much the nuts and bolts of our particular obsession cost? Lots everyday on new software, hardware, cameras, accessories, and how very, very fortunate we are to have so many, many wonderful choices. And that's all bloody well and true if you have the money to pick and choose- if ya don't, you're artistic palette  gets reduced to the most primary of colors.

And it seems few want to mention or discuss it for fear it forever brands them in the Loser category.Yes, many perfectly fine film cameras can be had for pennies (and even plastic ones can create sensational results), and yes, you don't have to pay for film if you use digital- but if you're going to see a project through to its photographic fruition, you need prints, and that's where you rack up real money, real fast. That's where the "digital revolution" has so utterly and abysmally failed with its:  persnickety printers, paper worth more than its silver counterpart, and inks worth more than their weight in gold- not to mention the waste that comes with every looping learning curve that differs with each printer, each paper, and every bit o' software year after bloody year. Madness! Unless you got the funds to take it all in stride...

It was suggested that perhaps I should dedicate a good part of my blog to low budget an/or collaborative photo projects. In all fairness however, I think that would be best served by a separate blog- one that would also be run collaboratively, much as Mark Page and I did with Expiration Notice. At this point, I don't think I would embark on such a venture unless I had the weight to also provide some sort of access or other palpable contribution, commercial or otherwise, to help further said projects so that it would be more than just another blog screaming headlong in the dark-- not unlike this one...

Now should someone want to embark on such an epic journey, get in touch- comments and suggestions appreciated...

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Was A Sunny Day...

The day was beautiful... spectacular! So much so that I felt more than a tinge of guilt- knowing the weather in so much of the rest of the country. So what was a boy to do but go out with camera and cigar in hand and enjoy (quick- name two things the public can get riled up about... in public). And as if out of a 1950's LIFE essay, I came upon this scene. 2011 and children were actually flying kites, or at least attempting to- with father doing his all to save the day. Norman Rockwell in the 21st century.

Postscript: Life can be so beautiful, and often, as recently experienced by our fellow colleague, so  very, very cruel- beyond words, sometimes beyond imagining. Our thoughts, prayers, and condolences, Jim.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Take A Long, Hard Look America...

They should also have a graph that shows what The Tea Party believes- which would have three quarters of the bar... dark blue.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Christopher Thomas- New York Sleeps

Christopher Thomas

Looks like deja vu all over again! Didn't even have time to catch my breath from the last tour de force when  along comes yet another master photographer with a vision so overwhelmingly good it makes one buckle and cringe into nothingness- and I don't even like "night photography." As with all great photographers, Christopher Thomas gets the shots one walks by countless times (making mental notes that there's a photograph in there somewhere) and transforms them beyond what any of us could imagine!

New York Sleeps is one of the most magical, beautiful manifestations of my hometown that I've ever seen, while still managing to retain much of its innate grittiness. Never descending into postcard pictorialism, it instead favors a more Atgetian view- beauty and wonder, warts and all. Amazing!

Christopher Thomas

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

So Long Manchester Photography!

Just found out that Mark Page has ceased publication of his blog- Manchester Photography. Those of you who frequented it knew that Mark spoke his mind, and if you're like me, kept going back because you appreciated exactly that- along with his sense of humor, and oh yes, what he had to say about photography.

I had the pleasure of working with Mark on Expiration Notice- an online photo gallery which had a brilliant (if I do say so myself) if short lived (3 editions) shelf life. One might think working with ol' Mark would be a major pain in the arse, truth was- nothing of the sort. And we both so hated to see it go- we had hoped that we could continue our collaboration, perhaps with a little added commercial support, but it was not to be. I'm still pretty proud (as I know he is) of the photographers we published, the imagery we exhibited, and the showcase we created and provided from scratch.

I hope we haven't heard the last of Mark on the blogosphere, but perhaps his time will be better spent in his professional life, his photo projects, whatever- it aint as easy as some may think to come up with something half way original on an almost daily basis. And wouldn't at all be surprised if one day I'll be able to stop over in Manchester to see what's on view on the walls of The Page Photo Gallery- maybe I'll even be able to get into a group show there...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Thomas Michael Alleman- Sunshine And Noir

Thomas Michael Alleman

Just in case you didn't catch him on Lens...

Add yet another name to the depressingly expanding list of those that would have me denying any past, present or future association with photography in any way, shape, manner or form just as surely as certain apostles denied Christ three times over. And to further complete the utter annihilation of ego, to ensure that there is no chance whatsoever of retaining some small measure of dignity, resurrecting some minuscule semblance of pride- to drive the stake in further still and add the final twist to an already mortal wound, Thomas Michael Alleman accomplishes all this with... a Holga! A HOLGA!!! He won't even allow one the most basic of face saving ploys- the ability to state that I couldn't possibly get such results simply because I can't even afford his equipment!

Who needs a goddamn B&W "Revival" when someone's making work this outstandingly good right now!?!

Thomas Michael Alleman

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Welcome To PinePoint

Welcome To Pine Point is an interactive, multi media piece and not the kind of thing I usually present here- but it was by far the most unique, original and from the heart submission I received. I was, for the lack of a better term, "multi-tasking" when I first clicked on it, and was then slowly, hypnotically captivated by the entire experience which very much brings up the ol'- if a tree falls in the woods question. Except this time the tree in question is your very own personal history...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya... Wisconsin!

Go Wisconsin!!! Maybe this'll show The Tea Bagholes what America is really about...

A Photographer's Dream Twice Over

Would have loved, loved, loved to photograph this joint- stunning landscapes and expressive portraits! But would have needed a grant for the entry fee alone...

PS- Wonder if we can expect an essay from Marty Parr?

Friday, February 18, 2011

The One, The Only- Mel's Hole...

Been a while since I originally heard this, and no one's asking you to actually errr.... believe it- just to listen. One of the greatest folklore legends of the latter 20th century- and one helluva hoot to boot! Why it hasn't been made into a movie with its ready made script, I don't know... PS- It goes full tilt around part twenty, but let it slowly reel you in from #1 for the full experience!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

SUCCESS- and the seeming lack thereof...

Colin Pantall has a most interesting post on the meaning of... Success! Colin was kind enough to ask moi for my input, and truth be told, despite having a productive exchange, I really couldn't put together anything really coherent- and humor (self deprecatory or otherwise) sometimes has the nasty habit of not translating well via email. So he ultimately, and most understandably chose not to run my reply.*

Do Not Hump

It took a while to realize why my initial response was as scattered as it was. Ask me why I like a picture, and I can tell you, ask me what motivates me and I can probably come up with a reason or two; ask me about success in relation to photography, and uh, well... that's not a particular morsel I've ever savored. It's just not a word I use in the same sentence with me and photography.

Photography is a medium that quite literally demands to be seen. And my work (besides the occasional and much appreciated shout out from the blogoshere) is not uhmm... much in the public eye- via print, gallery, whatever. So it's hard to comment on success, when you haven't really experienced it- particularly by the very means that the medium espouses. And yes, I fully do well realize that there's a helluva lot better, more important work out there that is always scratching and clawing to be seen.

Saying that you do it for yourself is cool- if you also have the occasional independent venue that shows or presents your work. But it can be reduced to a grand masturbatory proclamation if that work doesn't leave the confines of your own domain. And so to continue, to persevere year after anonymous year, Success is a word no longer in your equation, it's a loaded word fraught with self doubt and failure.

How I wonder what Vivian would've had to say!

*Update: Seems there was a bit of miscommunication- Colin (one of the good guys out there in photo blogdom has since posted it), warts and all.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Gear Lust Finally Hits...

These past ten digital years, I've been pretty immune from the plague of gear lust that so often and so easily distracts so many of us. Good thing too, cause I could never afford new WA lenses and a less than FF sensor DSLR (not to mention suffer their minuscule viewfinders), and FF bodies are just too damn clumsy (and expensive).

But this little Olympus EPL2 seems to deliver a decent amount of IQ in an ever so cute and compact body, at a fairly inexpensive price (although the $250 EVF would be a necessity)- and their equally compact 9-18 zoom gives me the focal lengths I require. That's one fairly versatile and very lightweight combo to carry about. And the fact that you can get square, 3:4 and 2:3 aspect ratios really sweetens the deal (not to mention no more scanning)!

 My god help me- I even like the white one best!!!

Either way, I'll have plenty of time to contemplate this move since I'm currently paying off two root canals, last year's vacation (and the one previous to that). And the next 2-3 yrs are no doubt gonna see several more fairly compact cameras (hopefully with WA options) that can deliver fairly serious goods. Anyone wanna buy some (very) limited edition silver prints?

Lightweight                                                                                                                   Inexpensive                                                                                    
Various aspect ratios!                                                                                                            

No true optical finder
Creepy, butt fugly protruding lens and lotus lens hood
Destroys against all odds, rebel film mystique
Not metal

Update:  I just saw the above camera in its (less than attractive) red incarnation; what was exceedingly appalling however, was the kit lens with its protruding proboscis- I mean... it looks like you have to buy a fanny pack as a prerequisite to be seen using one of those things!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Patriot, Hero, Whistleblower...

In 2005, General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters: “It is absolutely the responsibility of every U.S. service member [in Iraq], if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to try to stop it.”  This, in other words, was the obligation of every U.S. service member in Operation Iraqi Freedom; this remains the obligation of every U.S. service member in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.  It is a duty that Pfc. Manning has fulfilled.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


On a victory both hard won and beautiful- now comes the hard part...
(If only we had the clarity, will and insight)

Photo: AFP Marco Longari

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Paul Graham (and errr... me)

Saw Paul Graham last night- basically went to see if I could gain a greater appreciation of his latter work upon hearing him explain and present it. After all, how could I have such a general disdain and disregard for it- considering his earlier work which I so respected and admired? I obviously wasn't getting it.

And I still aint. A sunset, followed by a woman eating ham hocks (or was it a woman carrying a case of Pepsi, or a guy mowing the lawn, or...), followed by the same sunset, followed by completely blank pages so we could meditate on what we just saw and experienced, followed by the ham hocks, the sunset, blank pages... On and on it went... And these were (sorry, for the lack of a better word) mostly snapshots, simple snapshots- not the so called "snapshot aesthetic," but... snapshots!

And so I asked as politely as I could, "Uhh, uhmmm, Mr. Graham, sir, do you think you could get major publishers to publish your work today, which is so intensely private and personal and uhhh... esoteric, if you hadn't been a known name for your first three books of more errrr conventional work?" And he answered something to the effect that none of his books made any money, and that anyone can publish their own books these days. I don't think he purposely skirted the question, and I didn't have the heart to press it further since I still do respect the guy for what he once did. After all, it's not like he sold out- he's still staying true to his vision (whatever that now is), and to his credit, it's still somewhat socially based. But the question I really wanted to ask was, "Do you really think any name book publisher, or gallery owner would give you the goddamn time of day if you walked in off the street riding this sequential, conceptual high horse- without having the pedigree of being one of the very first to so brilliantly incorporate color into art/documentary photography? Do you have any idea whatsoever the shit you're getting away with?" 

If I didn't know better, I'd swear the real "conceptual" art being perpetrated here is seeing just how far people will buy (literally and figuratively) whatever the hell is being pumped out by a name brand. Now that's a concept I could almost admire- yes, you know that third pair of blank pages really turned it around for me, it really got me to thinking... 

What compels breakthrough pioneers to ultimately descend into minimalist deconstructed artwork that can be best explained (and appreciated) by some burnt out hippie from the '60s? Then again, Paul could have simply answered, "Who the fuck are you, you sniveling little snot!?"

So I got on my bike and rode home...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Fraction Mag- Nan Brown

I previously posted on Nan Brown, if you didn't catch her then, do yourselves a favor and catch her fabulous trailer portraits at Fraction.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Well as (my) luck would have it, my Air Tran plane never took off the ground after a dreaded three hour wait on the tarmac that ended at 2AM. Could this possibly be the reason??? I'm betting on it! Never got to NYC, never made the service- and never really wanted to fly on that plane after the first hour they couldn't "fix" it.

Hope Mr. Graham has something uplifting to say tomorrow- or something to really piss me off and light a fire! Now for some sleep...

Was Really Looking Forward To This...

If you're in the SF Bay Area...

Lecture by Paul Graham 
Tuesday, February 8, 2011, 7-9 pm
California College of the Arts San Francisco Campus (directions) 
Timken Lecture Hall 1111 8th St.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

2011 Has Not Been Kind Thus Far...

It came in with the passing of a student, and now a former Marine (Korea), NYC fireman, and my former boss at PS-162 in Harlem has also gone. I was very green when he gave me my first class, and had no idea how good he was at his job- and how much easier he made mine. I was soon to learn when he retired ten years later. He had his private side, but he was eminently fair- and always there when you needed him. A class act, and a stand up guy to the very end. One day when he was leading tours at the NYC Fire Dept Museum in the Wall St. area, the public unknowingly got a brief glimpse of him on TV on 9/11. Ever the fireman, he ran his retired butt towards Ground Zero and was glimpsed ghostlike and unrecognizable, completely covered in white ash and dust.

I'll be returning to NYC this week for his wake, but I'll leave a few things on the stove here while I'm gone. Death never gets easier- I guess it just gets closer. Photography is very much the active denial of that inevitable end, and a celebration of a time well spent.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


So often, a film struggles to do one, maybe two things right; when it succeeds, it is the rare achievement to be celebrated. Many a film has imploded under its own weight should it foolishly attempt grander goals, and it's usually not a pretty sight- and a worse experience. Biutiful goes after the whole damn ball of wax, and grabs it whole- quietly, wholeheartedly and in all the intensity life has to offer. No bells, no whistles- not a car chase, bullet or explosion to be heard or seen. 

This one stays with you.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Not LA

Thought this kinda looked like something outta LA when I composed it. More importantly, knew it would fall flat on its face unless it turned out exactly as my idealized previsualization- for better or worse, and much to my surprise, it's exactly as I previsualized. Asked the wife what she thought- "Looks like LA," she said.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Nobody's Fool

Try as he might, Steve Kroft couldn't trip up Julian Assange and make him sweat. The latter wasn't having it, proved himself one cool customer- and nobody's fool...

Sick F#*king Shit!

Sorry- there's just no other way to put it....
Never (ever) dreamed that even this is so damn crazy crooked here!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Eva Leitolf- Postcards from Europe

 Rostrogordo Picnic Park, Spanish-Moroccan Border, Melilla 2006

Melilla on Morocco’s Mediterranean coast has been held by Spain since 1497. Immediately upon independence from Spain in 1956 Morocco asserted its claim to Melilla and the second Spanish exclave, Ceuta. In 1999 the European Union funded an upgrade of the 12-kilometre border defences to stop undocumented immigration. Two parallel fences up to six metres high are topped with rolls of razor wire and monitored by movement sensors, infrared cameras and watchtowers.Der Tagesspiegel, 24 June 2008;, 28 August 2000
From the series Eva Leitolf, Postcards from Europe, c-print, 81 x 69 cm, ed. 6+1

I have posted on Eva Leitolf before, so it should be no surprise that I am a huge fan of her work. Postcards from Europe is her latest- and it does not disappoint. This time she revisits specific locations dealing with incidents concerning immigration in Europe. Once again, she follows her previous formula of photographing unoccupied landscapes while supplying detailed descriptions of what occurred there. And once again, her beautifully minimalist scenics eerily manage to resonate with how those problems reverberate in our present day world. Fascinating stuff!

 Farm of the Marchese di Cassibile, Cassibile, Italy 2010

On 16 June 2006 staff of Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) dismantled their kitchen and sanitation tents on land owned by the Marchese di Cassibile in order to follow the itinerant workers – who had spent two months harvesting potatoes here – to the tomato harvest in Foggia. According to MSF, before it intervened the mostly undocumented harvest workers lived without running water, toilets or electricity under plastic sheeting, in abandoned houses in the area, or in the abandoned farm. Between April and June 2006, MSF arranged 339 medical appointments, diagnosing mainly illnesses caused by the harsh living and working conditions: respiratory complaints, gastro-intestinal problems, skin infections and muscle injuries. A spokesperson for the organisation said that MSF had been working in Cassibile since 2003 and hoped every year that the local authorities would assume the responsibility and make their intervention superfluous. In the report I frutti dell’ipocrisia: Storie di chi l’agricoltura la fa: Di nascosto, MSF estimates that 15,000 seasonal workers come to Sicily every year.  MSF report of 16 June 2006 ( 
From the series Eva Leitolf, Postcards from Europe, c-print, 81 x 69 cm, ed. 6+1