Thursday, June 30, 2011

John "Pottawatomie" Brown (Redux)

While White abolitionists were against slavery and believed in freedom for all, many did not actually believe in the errr.... actual equality of all humankind. John Brown walked the walk and had freed slaves break bread and eat with him and his family at the dinner table- as equals. Guess I'll have to forget that saying about never trusting a man with "thin lips."

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Remarkable Daguerreotypes

Thanks to Minnesotastan of the always incredible TYWKIWDBI for finding these truly remarkable portraits. One is of John "Pottawatomie" Brown, one of my all time heroes, in this stunningly remarkable portrait.

  The branded hand close up of Captain Jonathan Walker- a "Slave Stealer." One of the few, if only, "body modifications" that I can recall worth being truly proud of.

 Then there's this amazing gem of a portrait...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Season Called San Francisco...

While much of the Northern Hemisphere experiences something called summer, those of us in San Francisco experience some not quite approximation. Most people equate California with eternal sunshine and warmth (alas, I also thought the same), and while most likely true in vast expanses of this elongated state- it does not hold true in San Francisco, where a low and pervasive fog battles the sun for preeminence, and one must take to wearing a jacket throughout the year, even in mid July. Did I mention the ever pervasive wind?

On practically any given day throughout the year you can see people up and about in their personal preference of t-shirts and shorts, next to fellow San Franciscans in winter jackets and wool hats- not to mention the summertime tourists shivering in their sandals and sleeveless shirts. Then you have those natives forever complaining of the freezing, inhuman cold should it hover into the forties, while others of the unbearably scorching heat should it approach a balmy 78! I've taken it as my responsibility to remind these people of the freezing temperature of water, and the fact that summer heat begins at 85. I have actually come to (sometimes) miss the bone numbing cold of the frigid NE, as well as it's blazing, infernal heat which confirms that it is, in fact, summer.

Anyway, as I closed the apartment windows to secure our indoor warmth this evening, I decided to do a little house cleaning on the right and separated the Photo Related Links into blogs on top, and whatever else just below- and alphabetized the bloody lot(s) for better or worse. Now, on to the Hot Toddy...

Monday, June 27, 2011

Tragedy and violence certainly make powerful images...

But there is a price extracted from every such frame: some of the emotion, the vulnerability, the empathy that makes us human, is lost every time the shutter is released.  --Greg Marinovich, from The Bang Bang Club

I suppose in this time of virtual image saturation, the same can now also be said every time we view those images- particularly from the comfort and ease of our living rooms where any direct association with the actual event is far removed and none existent. 

In fact, violence, and extreme violence at that, that both emulates or goes beyond the violence photojournalism strives to depict is now exulted in countless video games via the same medium many of us now view most of our images. Many are no longer shocked at the depiction of violence, they are simply let down if the portrayal is not graphic enough.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Now I don't know shit 'bout no damn horses, me being a city boy from NY and all. But even my limited vision honed of concrete and asphalt can appreciate someone who knows his subject matter so well, so intensely intimately, that it goes well beyond the immediate and right into the realm of our personal lives. This equine zen master has done a lotta living, both on and off a horse, enough to have been broken himself or hardened beyond redemption, as most of us surely would have. Instead, Buck learned from every moment- the causes, the consequences... and the remedies.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Take ll

Reposting five pictures previously in my Flickr files. Why? Cause they're vastly improved scans compared to the little chicken shits that unfortunately compromise the first half of my Flicker submissions. One great, and gloriously imaginary day, I'll scan and Photoshop each and everyone of my Flicker images into print ready files- soon as my check rolls in. Here's the first three...

Grand Canyon, AZ

Southern Montana

The Badlands

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Photo Of The Year

Ben Goff / The Gazette

Take a good, long look at it. This photograph was taken in the "richest" country in the world, the country of your dreams, my dreams, where a man's willingness to work has long been prized, respected, and rewarded above all else. So why is this man in jail?

Why didn't James Richard Verone just pull himself up by the bootstraps? Why didn't he just stop feeling sorry for himself and his thoroughly debilitating list of physical conditions? Why did he actually expect to receive medical care after fifty nine years of being a productive citizen in the land of his birth? Surely, real men like a Limbaugh, Beck or Cheney would be able to work right through the pain, without complaint, without these pitiful theatrics for public attention!

This is what we have allowed ourselves to become- a country that kicks its own to the very gutter the second they can no longer produce to maximum peak efficiency- and profit. For anyone counting every lost penny (or dream), living one check to the next- this could very well be you, it could damn well most definitely be me. We live in a country where greed is a virtue, and being poor is a disease unto itself, if you're part of the ever growing "working poor," you're obviously not working hard enough. If you're as sick as this man and can't work, you're lazy- if you can't find work, you're criminal.

Somehow the American Dream got distorted, twisted beyond all manner of reason. Instead of striving to get their fair share, there were those that started demanding it all and goddamn anything and anyone who got in their goddamn way. Middle class jobs were outsourced out of existence, war became our number one industry, mercenaries became honorable, education the luxury of those who could afford it. All this while the rich were allowed encouraged to scheme, divert and reconfigure other peoples' money into personal pinnacles of wealth so obscene that the very government (who they refused to pay tax to) forgave and then aided them anew when they failed in their grandest of larcenies. And who do you think they blamed?

So look long and hard at that photo good people of these semi United States. And think of it some more when your "leaders" ask you to rally round the flag, fight another war, and give up something else for the filthiest of those you already helped make rich. It's the same look the emperor wore that day the empire cascaded all around him- the same look its citizenry denied in their own faces for many a year prior.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Last Mountain

Although a well done and insightful movie about the onerous, dangerous history and legacy of King Coal that very much extends to the present day (more than ever), what I'll remember most about The Last Mountain was having Robert Kennedy, Jr. speak in person after the film. It was my first time experiencing what can only be described as a genuine, real live optimist. Not to say that I've been converted or transformed- but it's pretty damn amazing how a man can stay so positive (while inspiring others as well) when he's clearly against all odds- and isn't just peddling some get rich quick scheme to enrich or aggrandize himself, and himself only. It must be one helluva rare and special gene to possess- one so apparently alien to my own genome.

And please see the film- this is a modern day David v Goliath in which we all stand to lose...

Monday, June 20, 2011

Ahhh... The Simple Life!

 Christian Oth for The New York Times

I've never quite bought the Left side of everything (Castro was obviously never utopia fulfilled)- or anything else for that matter. It always strikes me as more than a bit odd however, when intelligent folk, instead of refining their views, pick up the broad brush of denying nuances, ignoring exceptions, and abandoning common sense. And so David Mamet has joined the ranks of David Horowitz and become a right wing ideologue- he's seen the light, Hallelujah! Praise be Jesus, I mean Yahweh- well, definitely not Allah...

It's not surprising when people remain stagnant in that which they've been indoctrinated since childhood- it's safe, familiar, comfortable. But it's particularly onerous and disingenuous when people revert to such womb like "beliefs" when they're older, more secure (ie-financially) and begin to realize how their previously espoused mantra may somehow be at odds with their more comfortable twilight life style. Disgusting.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Matt Black @ Lens Blog/Kickstarter

Photo: Matt Black

Matt Black was recently featured on Lens Blog. It's fortunate that we now have a small handful of photojournalists who not only take great photo essays, but actually stick around long enough to try and understand the underlying causes of what they're photographing. Disseminating that knowledge and understanding should be the the goal of all journalism- and it's truly sad that such a worthy project has to be privately financed in an age when no nothing celebrity anchors are paid such astronomical sums to report on no nothing celebrities. You can read more on this enlightening project that goes beyond the self serving propaganda of two countries here at Kickstarter...

Time it was, and what a time it was, it was

A time of innocence, a time of confidences

Long ago, it must be, I have a photograph

Preserve your memories; they're all that's left you 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Subway Story ll- Redemption

Anyone who ever spent time in the NYC subway, at least in the latter half of the last century knew what it's like to have people coming into the subway cars on a regular, if not daily basis, begging, pleading, scamming for whatever coins would come their way. Mostly it was a standard, perfunctory pitch, although it could degrade into a delivery straight from a drunken, misspelled play book. The hook, nevertheless, was always the same- I need money to help me over this once in a lifetime crisis in which I was totally blameless and could not possibly foresee, so I can get back on my feet and return to my previous life of spending whatever money I had getting wasted. They always left out the last part, of course- the audience always filled it in.

One afternoon, a neatly dressed man in his early thirties entered and began his soliloquy. I rolled my eyes and lowered my head on cue, and he began to recount how years previous he had often begged for change in the subway- and now simply wanted to thank everyone who ever gave, or simply tolerated him. And to thank everyone, he would now recite "Thank You" in 100 different languages. Well, this most definitely perked up my ears- what manner of theatre was this?

As I sat there disbelieving, he then proceeded to do just that. I couldn't verify the exact number, nor recognize each and every single language, but I do know that each "Thank You" uttered in a foreign tongue was spoken clearly, distinctly... sincerely. This was a heartfelt proclamation, a statement of redemption where the joy was palpable, and real as it ever gets. And up until the very end, some part of the jaded, cynical New Yorker that I am awaited the pitch that would no doubt follow. His final thank you over, he smiled and quietly strode to a repeat performance in the next car- leaving no doubt whatsoever who had given on that day. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Subway Story

Stephen Mallon (via NY Times) 

New Yorkers are a hard crowd. We neither laugh nor distract easily- particularly on the subway. And the crack heads, hustlers and pan handlers that frequented the NYC subway system in the early '90s were not quite the purveyors of good times and cheer as they'd regularly recite their various one note tales of woe designed to separate the occasional coin from some trusting out of towner. These scripted tales of bad luck and misfortune would immediately commence upon their entry when the train was in motion, and wind down by the middle of the subway car to allow time to collect on their way out. They would all start with an apology to their captive audience for interrupting our day, and then immediately cut to the trail of tears. It was a well rehearsed and strictly linear process from start to finish- both the storyline, and the physical journey from entrance to exit.

One afternoon after work, three (count 'em three) "guest speakers" entered, recited and exited in immediate succession as if choreographed to the very second- one would leave on the left, the door would close and the other would open and enter on the right... Their opening lines identical, "Excuse me for interrupting your afternoon ladies and gentleman, but I..." The audience remained unmoved, unfazed, and heads down silent throughout the procession,  preoccupied in our perpetual daze of New York induced detachment. 

All that instantly changed when the... fourth installment arrived on cue and began his spiel- "Excuse me for interrupting your afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, but I..." Right there and then, our fourth guest speaker was stunned into silence and bewilderment as heads lifted in synchronicity and fits of laughter broke out in tandem throughout the subway car- we had suddenly all realized that we had somehow, someway been transported somewhere not quite listed on any local or express stop on any NYC subway map. Three may or may not be a charm, but in the subway- four was not to be believed. Even in Gotham...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lighting Up The... Darkness!

 They don't know how to light a black girl.
Hhmmm...  well, easy enough fix- just add a new studio class to the undergrad photography curriculum. Done- and done! 

Ohhhhh......  maybe not so easy! Wait- how quickly we forget! No Worries......................

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Losing What's Needed Most...

When I was lamenting the absolute dearth of people of color who were gallerists, editors, etc in NYC (and in general)- Mrs. Deane commented that there were, in fact, people of color whose work, participation and organizational skills in the arts and photographic fields were of vital and acknowledged consequence throughout various areas of Europe. Actually, it was to Europe that I warily looked for the spark of "enlightenment," FOAM's resolute and misguided inactions served only to dissolve and deflate those hopes.

Yesterday, Hester of Mrs. Deane was gracious enough to write and inform me that one of those shining lights, Karmin Kartowikromo, along with fellow gallerist and lifetime partner, Emmo Grofsmid, were killed in a tragic car accident. Of course, I knew neither of them, but from all accounts, Karmin was a much loved, highly generous and very supportive member of the arts community, as was his partner. Mentor, friend and nurturing elder to many up and coming artists in his community (as is Alex Harsley in his), I can only hope that there will be more people of color who have the opportunity to try on his shoes in a worldwide community badly in need of their presence.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A New American Picture- Doug Rickard

Photos: Google/Rickard

Upon first viewing Doug Rickard’s A New American Picture online, I filed it under "pretty cool gimmick," or at best- "pretty cool... next!" Then I just happened to see the actual show at The Stephen Wirtz Gallery- and Rikard's work (like his blog) is pretty damn cool, period!

It plays with a lot of preconceived, misconceived photographic truisms- like the Photo 101 course that has you spend the day shooting "blind" without raising the camera to eye level. If you're a photographer, it just plain messes with your head as to what a good photograph is, and can be. The first thing you notice about these "photographs" (can they be considered photographs?) is that they're as modern and contemporary compositionally (and printed just as large) as any other work seen hanging in any fine art gallery. The second thing you can't help but notice is that they are of such wretchedly poor technical quality- low resolution to the extreme, you'd get more detail from a half frame camera loaded with TMAX P3200. The third thing you notice is that despite the markedly stripped down technical limitations- visually, they still manage to pull it off and shine! There's zero grain but plenty of artifacts from what are essentially cropped online panoramic views from Google Street View, and the lack of detail gives them a very... painterly look. And yet, they retain the look and feel of a photograph- you'd swear they were composed in camera (albeit with a very primitive, pre-2k digital test model). The main thing lost (more important to some than others) is that you can't get up close and appreciate the detail. Other than that (and a significantly shorter tonal scale), they seem to exist hovering in a blurry Bizarro netherland of Eggleston meets Shore.

I could not look at A New American Picture without also calling to mind The Killing Fields- extraordinary work created as far away from the pretense of art as humanly possible, that nevertheless remains some of the strongest, most vital portraiture ever created in the history of photography. Neither body of work qualifies as photojournalism (these images didn't set out to tell any particular story per se- their initial purpose simply to document in the most basic of terms)- but as "Fine Art" (that ever so redundant oxymoron), they most certainly fit the bill.

For more on this subject, see here, and here...and here- where the Comments eventually get into the "ethics" of "photographing the world" from the comfort of your home computer. While an ingeniously inventive use of the mediums involved, and certainly worthy of its 15 minutes, as was the large format, selective focus craze of a couple years back, how long this one trick pony lasts... as of this writing, it's up to at least two.

The person pushing the button in front of the monitor that guides a military drone may be quite effective, at times, but it's a safe bet no one will ever mistake them for a warrior born.

Photos: Google/Rickard

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Congratulations, Mavericks!!!

I'm not much of a fan anymore, although I make the occasional effort come Finals or World Series time. And when I tuned in to the initial loss by Dallas, my only question was- how the hell did they make it to the finals anyway? They were hopelessly outgunned and outclassed- the Miami Heat were in a class unto themselves, the heirs apparent, the reigning gods of hardwood. A virtual superstar team unto themselves, led by the the sovereign power of Lebron and the force of nature called Wade- they simply had to show and unleash the spectacle, as they most surely did in Game 1 to no one's surprise. This series would be neither pretty nor easy to watch.

All the Mavs had going for them was an awkward looking white guy who was almost painful to watch even when he was doing good- but his shot was as good as his play was ugly. And the rest of his spectacularly unspectacular teammates never gave up, never rested, never stopped coming back- stealing and rescuing game after game at the very last second, the very last shot. They never considered the championship their birthright, over the course, they simply demonstrated they were- the better team.

(from someone who never thought he'd ever root for anything from Texas)

Think You Know Art?

Verily, I think thee not... (via HuffPo)  Wonder how he would critique her

Saturday, June 11, 2011

If We Had A Responsible Press...

...who actually did their jobs, the people who sanctioned, ordered and perpetrated the most heinous forms of torture imaginable in our name (you know- US, the good guys) would be sitting at a war crimes tribunal awaiting judgement and sentencing along with certain Serbian, African and other such foreign monsters. Instead, the majority of Americans believe that our torture policy amounted to little more than college hazing pranks and "stress positions," when, in fact, people have died and have repeatedly been tortured to within inches of their death.

Priorities, Priorities, Priorities...

Great little article. There's little doubt Lance Armstrong doped, but as one of his fellow doping teammates remarked- if you took all his Tour de France victories away, the next twenty guys you'd end up giving it to also doped. Figuring out who then won what would be significantly harder than... proving him guilty.

Meanwhile, it would indeed be nice if these super zealous Federal prosecutors with god on their side went after someone really worthwhile like, say: Bush, Cheney, Rove, Rummy, anyone in their administration, practically anyone in Goldman-Sachs... good freakin' Christ- just about any of the goddamn white collar crooks out there with the blood of millions on their hands instead of some jock on a bike!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Things I Should Never Wash...

I washed my wallet last month, it survived but a couple of signed mementos my friends gave me did not. I washed my film changing bag which made its way into my laundry bag last weekend. Four years ago I managed to wash my 20mm Nikkor AF-D that somehow got in my dirty clothes bag on the last leg home from a road trip- still don't wanna talk about that one. I really should be more careful about what I wash...

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

En Foco In Focus

En Foco was established by a small group of dedicated Latino photographers in NYC back in the mid '70s. Tired of the continued lack of racial and ethnic diversity in the photographic landscape, they decided to initiate their own process of inclusion by organizing and reaching out to photographers of color, mounting their own exhibits, holding their own workshops, etc. They've come a long way, and have expanded quite nicely over the decades into a sizable organization that includes: publications, stipends, awards, exhibitions, classes, etc. and through their programs have provided valuable training and exposure to photographers of color throughout the world.

That's the good news... I must say however that I am more than somewhat disheartened that they have chosen to completely stay clear of our online discussions concerning the very topics that led to their creation. This was quite apparent when recently discussing FOAM, and also back in '09 when discussing the PDN Annual judging panel.

I realize that En Foco has struggled long and hard to establish themselves and get where they are, and that they are not going to in any way jeopardize their current standing or position in that precarious world of art, connection and funding. But when Joerg Colberg at Conscientious (not exactly your fly by night presence on the web) lets out an earnest, heart felt plea asking what the photo community at large can actually do to help level the playing field in so many of the areas yet to be reached- it's really inexcusable that there is not a single word of advice, affirmation or explanation from the very organization that should be leading. A viable opportunity to enlighten and quite possibly set things further in motion both squandered and negated- it's still not too late...

Encl: My 2nd email to Miriam Romais, En Foco Executive Director--

Dear Ms. Romais,
I'm sorry you've apparently chosen not to respond to my inquiry. I thought a statement, a bit of advice or dialogue to the question posed on Conscientious would have been beneficial, particularly towards helping to explain the barriers and obstacles that still exist when it comes to people of color in the arts. Coming from someone with your experience would have had the ring of authority, rather than conjecture.

I realize, of course, that your interest and loyalties are to En Foco and those that support it and its various programs, but I don't see how this would have in any way detracted from or compromised said interests- in fact, this might have been an opportunity to help acknowledge those efforts.
Stan Banos

PS- In the interest of full disclosure, I was a member of En Foco for approximately a year and a half back in the mid/late '70s before we gradually drifted apart- not because of any great political or philosophical rift or confrontation, probably more because I was in my very early twenties and not focusing on any one thing for any great length of time...

Monday, June 6, 2011

Matt Black

Photos: Matt Black

About a week ago when I met up with Pete Brook of Prison Photography fame, I asked him what photographer(s) out there were worth looking at- and he kept repeating one name with a wry smile on his face- Matt Black, Matt Black, Matt Black... 

Every great once in a while, I have the self deprecating pleasure of posting about a photographer who's so damn good that it embarrasses one to be even seen with a camera- and yeah, Matt Black most definitely fits that description without any question or doubt. His photographs are epic, try finding a weak one in any of his essays- they don't exist. And they help tell a tragic story so often seen and recounted, but seldom explained and never really understood. Matt lures us in visually, and once you catch your breath, actually attempts to tell us just why the conditions he photographs exist.

Photos: Matt Black

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Tree Of Life- Hallmark v 2001

I really wanted to like this film. Really, really wanted to like it... And I did just that for the first hour- all through the introduction of The Family, the Creation, the... dinosaurs! Every scene had a purpose, every composition- a thing of beauty! Then dad goes on a trip, and the whole damn movie leaves town with him. It drags into second gear as we delve into a son's increasing Oedipal Complex, only to get worse when dad finally comes home and it mutates into some monotonously repetitive Hallmark greeting card/hand lotion commercial where constantly articulating hand close ups are interspersed with beach landscapes of seemingly undead zombie family members wandering about aimlessly. The last hour was excruciating.

Pssst... Did I mention the entire "narration" of The Tree of Life is whispered (and in the interrogative)? And that this silent, slow motion, orangey vaginal luminescence appears every half hour for reasons unknown?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Mother Jones' Photo Gallery

Hadn't realized until now that Mother Jones has quite the impressive gallery of photo essays. Philip Cheung is but one of the accomplished photographers you'll see featured there- many, names you'll recognize...

Photo: Philip Cheung

Thursday, June 2, 2011

God Saves The Day

Another dreaded roll of almosts... if only the light, if only the shadow, if only a split second sooner, if only the person had moved a little to the, if only I had moved a little to the, if only that person just wasn't there... 

It would have been just... right! I wouldn't have wasted my time, I would've had at least something to show for it, I wouldn't feel so damn disappointed- yet again...

And then god stepped up and saved the day on the very last scan, because... god is