Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I Don't See Race (just don't drop me off in this neighborhood)

Can ya see where I'm going with this? Can ya? Can ya? Can ya?

I don't know if the person who originated that "saying" was 100% sincere in what they wanted to convey, or just plain shrewd and duplicitous. Either way people, if you really are sincere or perhaps simply attempting it... hell, even if you just wanna plain fake it (and don't give two shits about equality, justice or peace)- please, please, please (there's a song in there somewhere) refrain at all cost from reiterating that accursed saying! If there's anything a person of color does not want to hear it's, "I don't see race." 

Because every time someone says that, it tells that other than white person that you are not seeing them as who and what they are; you are not considerate enough, knowledgeable enough, astute enough to know how the world works (regardless of whatever education you may possess), and how your position in it is automatically differentiated from theirs since birth- and that you will neither make the time nor effort to even consider that, thank you very much. In short, that magic, feel good phrase says more about what you so woefully lack as a thinking, feeling individual, than anything you may possibly have to offer as friend, ally, or neutral observer. And it does so in a manner that not only comes off as utterly inept, but also as completely arrogant, ignorant, condescending and bogus.

Yes, we are all of the human race- non whites have been having to prove that over, and over, and over again for one very long time now. We're well aware of it. So please don't insult us by saying that you don't see what's as equally obvious as any other physical attribute such as height, weight or sex. Don't tell me to my face you're so pure that you don't avoid certain neighborhoods at all cost- when I'll freely admit that discretion is the better part of valor.

If you really want to come off as someone who isn't prejudiced, someone who is, in fact, fair and genuine, then make the time to have that conversation, make the attempt to understand, and let your actions reveal the sincerity of your intent, and your heart*

*Inspired by a true life exchange with a most learned colleague recently subjected to "the saying" in a professional, photographic context.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mitch Epstein- State Of The Union


 Photo: Mitch Epstein

Mention the pioneers of color photography, and the usual suspects always come up: Eggleston, Shore, the two Joels, Graham, Parr, etc. Mitch Epstein is not usually muttered in the same breath, but here is a (master) photographer who understands and does color as well as any of them, and was also doing it at the same time. 

I was somewhat disappointed upon first opening State of The Union. The book leans toward the large size of the spectrum but opens with small and medium format photographs printed double truck slightly right or left of center. I would have been happy to turn a book of this size edgewise just so I could study each of these rather wondrous photographs at my leisure as a seamless, uninterrupted image. And they definitely do demand to be studied- despite a straight forward shooting style and subject matter firmly rooted in everyday reality, there's something profoundly surreal about many of these images. Some seem not so much captured, as much as... slowed down; others, eerily 3D. In the book's print of the image above, one feels as if you could almost place yourself amongst the soldiers as you weave about the moving mass. Like I said- the guy knows what he's doing.

But wait- there's more...

The reason for the book's particular size finally reveals itself when you reach the second half- large format images from the American Power essay. Again, they're printed double truck across both pages, only this time they are framed with small, evenly spaced white borders- and they look... Spectacular! Sharp, absolutely drop dead glorious reproductions that, were they seamless, you could dry mount, frame and hang proudly! I don't ever recall being quite so bowled over page after page, image after image by a book's print quality, presentation and, of course, it's knock you off your feet imagery...

Photo: Mitch Epstein

Monday, April 25, 2011

Robert Gumbert- American Prison Tattoos



If for some reason you still have not seen Robert Gumpert's prison portraits, you are missing out on work that accentuates and epitomizes the very power and potential of photographic portraiture...

Friday, April 22, 2011

Wondercon #6- Mr. Vader


 Darth peruses downtown San Francisco from the patio of his retirement villa, where he encourages fellow residents to "buy local."

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Paint It BLACK!!!


Maybe the Japanese radiation will mutate sea life so that it can flourish and prosper in the oil and methane rich waters of our present/future... What? Not funny? Got that right!

Meanwhile, Obama has given the green light to drill anew even though no new regulatory laws have been passed, no new preventative technology has been created, the gulf and surrounding wetlands environment is still very much poisoned, the clean up workers themselves have been poisoned, their ages old sea based economy is dead in the water, and practically no one has been compensated for their losses. Wow!!! We're talking multiple win-win-wins here!

Soon they'll have carte blanche to drill, pollute and poison the Arctic! Think how much easier it'll be to spot those dangerous polar bears in their new black coats and easy to spot footprints!

RIP- Chris Hondros & Tim Hetherington

There are plenty of places to go and find out the facts and accomplishments concerning these photographers' lives. These are a particular breed, and it's a wonder any get out alive and intact, sane or coherent. I'm sure while we observe, and others mourn, tonight they will get the honor, camaraderie and reception they deserve from those that preceded them on the other side...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Film Wasters


Filmwasters #48 - "My life went to the market to buy some meat and liquor" by Sean Rohde .

Don't know if I like the picture more, or the caption (OK, OK, the photo- really, really do love it!)- even though, I thought, right until now, that it said, "My wife went..." From the very analogue and very eclectic Filmwasters... And I can't quite get over the one below either.


Rose by Robert Schneider
 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My Piece Of Photographic History



I'm not big into autographs or "celebrity" memorabilia, but this is one small and hardly insignificant (at least in my eyes) historical artifact I am most happy to receive, and treasure. My "official" Vivian Maier 120 film spool sent for my small contribution towards the making of her life's documentary. Can't wait for the book, and the movie!  (Not the best still life, granted- just wanted a quick representative shot).

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Flickr My Ass


Well, it's been a fun weekend dealing with my friend Flickr. First, I couldn't sign in, time after time after time. Emails, help forum, blah, blah, blah. Finally figured a run around so I could avoid the blank screen and get into my own account, just so I could... pay them! So I hit the pay button and... the second blank screen! Emails, help forum, blah, blah, blah.

Finally figured the second run around, and finally paid. Now I have to wait for their backlog to clear from all the other thousands having the same problems so they can accept me again into their fold.

You'd think they would make some attempt to fix this, since we pay them, rather than telling us to work it out ourselves and fix it for them. Somehow, I don't remember doing all this when service was... free.

US Support Of Plane Bombing, Civilian Murdering Terrorist

Despite all the "you're either wit us, or agin us" rhetoric, this terrorist  Posada bastard wasn't tortured, renditioned or even extradited despite blowing up a plane full of civilians, and despite our so called laws, treaties and policies that have done all the aforementioned to completely innocent people time and time again.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Greatest Video Ever Made Or Seen

No matter your taste, no matter your passion- it has a little bit of everything for everyone (actually quite a lot).
(Via Boing Boing)

What- You Don't Make Mistakes!?

A)  She was hired for her looks

B)  She's just naturally forgetful

C)  It always worked before

I'm kinda leaning towards C).

Friday, April 15, 2011

Wondercon #5- The Rectangular Walking Carpet Fuzzie


Hey, it is, what it is...

I'm going to assume its Japanese, and speculate it's something to do with a video game, kids' toy, cartoon, whatever... It was most definitely lime green, very cute- and very funny. It walked like a wind up toy under the guidance of the person on the right- probably because I doubt the person inside could see where the heck they were going very well.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

He Just Went Corporate...

So I was at the local Mac store this past Sunday when all of a sudden this intense applause breaks out- and I mean intense! It doesn't stop, it gets louder, stronger in increasingly nonstop waves. I was there playing with an iPad, one of the few modern day gadgets I find appealing even though I don't need it and can't afford it. So now I'm forced to look up and I'm straining to see who the fuck it is that started and continues to maintain such a commotion, and I see that people are making quite the effort to go up to said person, congratulate... him, and shake his hand. He slowly inches his way down the cavernous store aisle towards the door all the while shaking hands, being congratulated, getting hugged. Feel the love, baby! This is now threatening to surpass cult like behavior.

He's a relatively small, young, twenty something (Tom Cruise?- no he should be older now); he doesn't appear exceptional in any way. So who the fuck is he? I usually wouldn't give a shit, but it's still loud as all hell, if not louder, and I can't concentrate to make the iPad do what I want. So I start asking, "Who the fuck is he? Who the fuck is he?" And no one around me seems to know. He finally exits looking very much the embarrassed. The mania subsides.

I go up to one of the still smiling Mac T shirt people and she enthusiastically blathers on about he's some kind of genius, just got promoted and "just went corporate," and that this is a tradition they do. "Like the waitresses singing Happy Birthday at Denny's?" I reply. He'll make more in one day than I make in months, and I couldn't even get the goddamn iPad to display my blog.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Family- Chris Verene


 Photo: Chris Verene

Family by Chris Verene is an intriguing and contemporary body of work. Intriguing because it examines  its subject matter with the eye of a long time native, and not from the mythic lore of iconic mid America. Contemporary, not because it breaks with any particular aesthetic boundaries, but because he uses his own extended family and acquaintances to emphasize and explore a region very much struggling in today's highly troubled economic times.

Chris hand writes his own narrative on the borders of his photographs, and it works nicely to hold them together while providing a modicum of insight- the landscape is familiar, but even the natives seem a trifle alien and uncomfortable in their surroundings now that hard times affect both urban and rural enclaves alike.

Ironically, a very visible sign of contemporary America's austere landscape is the high prevalence of obesity. As more and more areas lack nominally priced, nutritional items and are instead inundated with cheap, high fat and unhealthy food, more and more of us can now only afford to choose one from a long list of necessities, be it: housing, health, education, etc. Family shows some of the everyday consequences inherent in what is increasingly becoming a necessary survival strategy.

Paging through the book, Arbus came to mind with her often stark portraits of the seemingly unfamiliar within the ordinary, as well as Jim Goldberg's hand written Rich and Poor narrative. Verene's photographs cover a vast array of familial situations, some everyday trivial, others, situations that portray significant lifestyle changes, consequences and celebrations. And although I sometimes question the omnidirectional style of his lighting, many of his photographs are simply beautiful. And like life most anywhere, that beauty is often lost, unrecognized and only rarely acknowledged.


Photo: Chris Verene

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Manning Denied UN Torture Inspector

The Bang Bang Club



I've not read it yet, but will hopefully acquire it by the weekend. I'm going to assume most of you are familiar with the infamously named Bang Bang Club, that intrepid band of photographers operating under the last vestiges of the apartheid regime in South Africa. The reviews at Amazon are pretty enthusiastic, save for those complaining about the photo reproduction quality in the latest edition- a legitimate gripe I suppose, although not necessarily the reason one would buy such a paperback in the first place. Anyway, look forward to reading it, and perhaps seeing the movie (maybe).

There's a short documentary here, although somewhat difficult to understand for my American trained ear.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Wondercon #4- The Champion Leopard Headed Super Guy!



I didn't think this had a chance when I took it, but kinda took to it upon seeing- the costume so completely... ludicrous! It reminds me of one of the greatest films ever made- Robot Monster. Phil Tucker couldn't afford to buy a complete robot costume for his sci-fi epic, all he could afford was the... helmet (and a cut rate ape suit). So he rolled with it-  guerrilla gorilla movie making at its best. And the rest, as they say...

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Our Grand Nuclear Legacy

Here are but two of the highly unpublicized "highlights" from the short but notable history of this totally safe, cheap and reliable source of potentially limitless energy...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Our Peaceful, Murderous Atom

Think the various atomic/nuclear agencies worldwide will be honoring, praising and saluting The Fukushima 50 for the rest of their numbered days and beyond? They're gonna give 'em a hero's send off and keep their names and legacy alive in the annals of nuclear history long after they've departed this mortal coil for single handily sparing the world an unimaginable nuclear disaster, right? Right???

Bet the house their sorry asses will never again be mentioned, invoked or acknowledged by anyone even remotely related to nuclear power in order to put as much distance between their inevitably shortened lives and an industry that can kill you now, or decades later- and create enough deadly by products to keep killing for century upon century to come...

As one of the AEC scientists says in the film: *
"We discovered that our theoretical calculations didn't have a strong correlation with reality. But we just couldn't admit to the public that all these safety systems we told you about might not do any good"

 *(Thanks to Matt Croxton)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Orchard St., 1980


 Photo: Brian Rose

This wonderful image by Brian Rose was taken in 1980, and I admittedly am predisposed to admiring it for reasons both aesthetic and personal. Subjectively, the time marks when I arrived in NYC proper (Manhattan) from the outlying boroughs, to make my own claim (Ha!) in the big city at the height of the then Punk/New Wave music scene- heady times. A mere prepubescent for most of the swinging '60s (13 in '69), I was ready to dive head first in what I knew would be the last aftershock of that fabled era that helped propel the century into modernity (by '84 it would be history, having already corrupted into the age of Madonna). Of course, cell phones were blessedly non existent, SOHO was still the gallery mecca, CBGB and The Mudd Club were going strong, even crack was yet to be invented, and in certain areas of Loisaida, people lined up in perfect single file in the middle of the street as minders with baseball bats warily maintained a calm and civil ambiance as everyone took in the afternoon cueing to put their money through the slot of a reinforced door in an abandoned building and await their magical bag of dope to appear. 

Oh, and I had my first apartment- actually, a one room flat adjacent to an Off Off Broadway Theatre with a toilet I shared with the customers. I opened, closed and maintained it in exchange for free rent. A couple of door fronts away was The 4th St. Photo Gallery of Alex Harsley who I believe is still there- the only black photo "gallerist" in NYC then, and I do suspect... now. The more things change...
 
The amazing thing about this photograph, shit, there are a lot of amazing things about this photograph! First, it resonates a good fifty, sixty, seventy years and more back in time (see below), replicating an almost identical scene that could have been witnessed there complete with similar crowds, commotion, outdoor vendors and passers-by of all ages, races and denominations. The original New World melting pot alive and well almost a century later, amidst the original architecture and backdrop of tenements and storefronts- magnificent! And after you take in the picture as a whole, you begin to notice the colors, the details, the individual groupings of people; some shopping or running errands, others casually strolling, a grandmother doting on her grand kids, while the sons of a recent immigrant ponder the whole massive, whirling mayhem- as it has always been.

Alas, this scene has considerably changed this past decade, the bargain storefronts that served a century of new arrivals have succumbed to designer boutiques and trendy restaurants- not far from this intersection an entire corner has been transformed into mock french village storefronts (what the?). The crowds are more sedate, more monied, more homogenized.

That was my NY, the one without air conditioned subway cars in the tropical heat of July, the one with Jimmy Breslin writing about its everyday working people in The NY Daily News, the one where the Pan Am building was still named... the Pan Am building, the NY that's being consigned to yet another page of history with every passing day- photos like the above bring it (and us) back to life. Damn, I want a chocolate egg cream...


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Wondercon #2- The Officer...


How would this photo play without content, caption or explanation?

I'm sure he's a nice enough guy, but... I bet the man in black could send one serious shiver down the back of many a WWll concentration camp survivor. The guy was giving me chills just from the documentaries and movies I've seen, I mean, look at him- to the SS manor born.

Fortunately, this is not a 21st. century neo-Nazi rally- just another day at the Wondercon comic book convention in San Francisco this past Saturday. Many will recognize both uniforms from the Star Wars movie series. Maybe Lucas got it a little too right, it's about as reminiscent of a Nazi SS officer uniform as one can possibly get. And this guy's really got the aristocratic Nazi phenotype and posture down cold- not to mention the piercing far away glaze in his eyes. If it wasn't for the kid looking every bit the everyday bored and slacker teen (and thereby helping disperse the illusion), the man in charge could very much be deciding who lives and who dies on a pleasant spring day in some parallel universe (or in a galaxy far, far away). And his rather large cohort, the white winter Waffen look a like, would no doubt supply the muscle to carry out his superior's orders.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Wondercon 2011


On my way to have a beer with a friend after work this Friday, I had the good fortune to wander unto Wondercon 25- a comic book/sci-fi convention deluxe complete with the requisite superhero and villain participants de jour. I've never been attracted photographically to such happenings per se, they just seem like enclosed environments conducive to the manufacture of snapshots of variously masked masses self consciously mugging for the camera.

But it was an altogether different experience to catch them milling about the outside world and interacting with the environment on their way to and fro. And it was quite the sight to see a good hundred or so of them in the complete, "official" uniforms of Star Wars Storm Troopers, complete with officer corps, and Darth Vader himself with his weird, self contained heavy breathing, personal sound system. I then realized how seriously these 30, 40, 50 year old men (and a couple of women) all took this, the "authenticity" and attention to detail of their uniforms and poses- they were the sci-fi space equivalents of Civil War reenactors! But there was nothing they could really... reenact. So they all posed together for a series of group photos, and probably went  home to a galaxy suburb far, far away...

Nevetheless, it was a pretty congenial crowd; managed to take a few photos that day and the next, and suspect I got a couple of keepers out of it, certainly more than I had expected to have this weekend- will be posting them as they come.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The BP Killing Machine

Dolphins are dying, sea turtles are dying- all at unprecedented rates in The Gulf Coast, almost as if something in the very water itself is killing these beloved creatures. If I hadn't been repeatedly assured that the thousands upon of thousands of tons of toxic oil, deadly methane and purposely undisclosed chemical dispersants hadn't somehow all magically disappeared almost overnight, I might have actually grown suspicious... perhaps alarmed- maybe even outraged!