Thursday, May 31, 2012

So What Have We Learned?

Photo: Ron Haviv
It's no stretch of the imagination that there are photographers aplenty that would deal with arms manufacturers, directly- or indirectly, as is the case with Haviv. That's a given. It was a shock however, that a photographer with a worldwide reputation as a humanistic documentarian of the very atrocities that these weapons inflict would himself support and be supported by these propagators of misery and suffering. If anyone should know better, it's Ron Haviv. There is no justification, no rationalization possible. And for his part, it was just another anonymous stock photo sale, without regret, without remorse, and certainly without apology- not to anyone of us, but to those who have been and will continue to be maimed, mutilated and killed.

One can ask what manner of man is this Ron Haviv, this man whose images can make us feel so deeply, but whose actions portray a chilling betrayal of heart and purpose. Did he unknowingly lose his moral compass to the constant, everyday, complete and utter madness that is war, or was it a more voluntary, calculated descent into the land of "what does it matter?" Are we to believe he was always a cold hearted but talented individual with a gift any photographer would "kill" for, and a penchant for fame and money whatever role(s) he had to play?

And what does it mean when commenters say they find no conflict of interest, no hypocrisy of action, no deceit in his non explanation? Are they blind to the horrors these weapons inflict on innocent men, women and children each and every year? And it is always the innocents who suffer most in modern warfare- "smart" weaponry be damned!

Ultimately, this should make us look more closely at ourselves, our choices and decisions as photographers, consumers and human beings- which is basically what Duckrabbit fortunately chose to do on our behalf. Is Ron Haviv the aberration, or the norm? Are agencies such as Vll going to impose tighter ethics and standards, or will they choose to ride this out without conscience or concern? But what of all the silent others who see no wrong, who do not even see the need to discuss or challenge? That is the scary part, the world that you and I, that Ron Haviv and all the suvivors in his photographs must live in...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Two Enemies, One Heart...

This story had me to the point of tears on several occasions...

Unbelievable. And well worth the listen.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A New Low?

Well I would hope, think and pray that there is a most logical explanation somewhere down the line for this blatant transgression (cause I don't see one anywhere about, and the malodorous silence is stupefying at the least). But there it sits on Ron Haviv's site like some secret, unbeknownst, and very malignant tumor. Trouble is, Duckrabbit has very much revealed it's existence- and an explanation should be immediate, forthright and forthcoming from both Haviv, and VII (if only for the sake of their own organization)...

Friday, May 25, 2012

1% of Water

At most, 1% of water in the entire world is drinkable. Think about that the next time you water your lawn in an environment where grass doesn't normally grow (or if you're still washing your film and prints to archival purity).

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The W Legacy- Speak Dumb To Me...

 ... the newest as well as the most conservative members of Congress on average speak at the lowest grade level.

Thought I was gonna say something like torture, endless war or throwing every single dollar we had into the crapper- didn't ya? Oh yeah, you did...

PS- Wonder if this is somehow involved?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Dead Men Don't Look Like Me- Paul Schiek

Anyone who's attempted it can tell you just how hard it is to take a good portrait. A plethora of hopeful possibilities resulting in countless hopeless almosts. The look is there- but the angle, the lighting, the background... Fix any of the last three and the first is long gone.

Every once in a while, however, an exhibit or a book comes along that shows us just how damn simple it all is. Point the camera and press the button. So damn simple even a prison guard can do it, cuts and scratches and creases and all...

Monday, May 21, 2012

Pieter Hugo- This Must Be the Place

Photo: Pieter Hugo

This Must Be the Place is an exquisitely reproduced, greatest hits retrospective by this not quite yet middle aged photographer. And make no doubt, Mr. Hugo is an exceptional portraitist. I, along with others, have had our problems with the presentation of his Nollywood series here in the States, namely because of the long and prevailing history of racism in this country, and how racist imagery has played such a vital part in said history- imagery which his Nollywood series can so closely seem to mirror, however innocent his original intent. From this interview, it seems to this day that Mr. Hugo either doesn't get that part, or refuses to do so:

As an artist it's not my responsibility to provide a responsible rendition of how the rest of the world should perceive or not perceive Africa.

I can't speak for all his critics, and certainly no artist anywhere is responsible for how everyone in the world perceives and interprets their work. I can state that an artist who regularly depicts certain groups of people in his art (from which he also makes his living), should at least make a proper effort to ensure that his work is not misconstrued or misrepresented- Shelby Lee Adams goes to particular lengths to explain the imagery and complex history of his Appalachian subjects to the outside world. He feels he owes at least that much to his subjects, if not his viewers. Of course, if you just don't give a shit, or if your goal all along was to simply throw out a group of images with a certain amount of shock value...

I don't think the latter was the case with Pieter Hugo, nor do I think him a racist or uncaring fellow- but I can't help but think he lacks a certain amount of cultural sensitivity. I can fully understand his point that Nollywood was a respectful celebration of the Nigerian film industry, and that he had its full blessing. And I do get "the fun" part-  but he is also old enough to understand how individual images from that series can also play to ridicule and racist stereotypes. He could have used this work to purposely initiate and foster discussion and understanding on issues regarding: photography, colonialism, racist imagery and cultural constructs. Instead, he chose simply to deny any implied responsibility for what that double edged sword of an essay offers.

The book, of course, doesn't concentrate solely on that essay- portraits from the computer scavenging series depict a living hell where current age modernity in the Western world is stripped to its most primitive, toxic reality in the Third. The African judges in traditional European judicial garb complete with white wigs accentuate, as if necessary, just how ridiculous those costumes are- on any man or woman of any culture. The Hyena And Other Men also received criticism for furthering the exoticism of "the other," and it's a valid criticism- although being more of a straight documentary nature, one hard to argue without issues of censorship coming into play. Again, a more open dialogue from the get go would have worked wonders. There are even a few intriguing B&W portraits taken with some bizarre emulsion that accentuates the pigment in one's skin- the end result making even Whites look very, very dark. A Hugo nod that beneath it all, we're all the same...

This Must Be The Place contains a wide variety of truly excellent portraits from a wide variety of essays, many of which are laden with the geopolitical subtexts of historical colonization and present day globalization- Chrissakes, it is in great part what takes his work beyond mere prettiness. So why deny where it does, in fact, take us when it does?

Friday, May 18, 2012

18 US Veteran Suicides-- Per Day...

That's right. And you can bet a good part of it is due to the wanton abuses and killings involving innocent civilians that US military were encouraged to commit while in Iraq and Afghanistan. And please don't take the word of someone who has never set foot in either country- there's plenty a You Tube video where you can hear it  directly from the boots on the ground.  Guilt can be, and always has been, a most deadly and silent killer in every war fought.

An emotion those who send us to war, never acknowledge, never feel, and are totally incapable of experiencing.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Coupla Books And A Gallery

Stopped over at Carte Blanche gallery the other day to check what was on the walls (always something good) as well as the bookshelves (likewise). I finally made my way over to this rather unattractive looking book with an ugly, blurry cover that I had purposely saved for last due to its unappealing appearance, and discovered it was none other than the much touted Redheaded Peckerwood.

To be perfectly honest, if I was still making twice what I make now- I would have bought it. Once past the cover, I could at least understand what all the talk was about- it's not so much a photography book, as it is an "art" book. Thematically based on the killers featured in Badlands, it contains drawings, lists, historical documentation, and various inserts and fold outs- in addition to Christian Patterson's fine art photographs and occasional illustrative kitsch. Peckerwood goes the extra mile for a total "art experience," and from the reviews- it most definitely seems to have succeeded. This concept is certainly not new when it comes to other books in the art realm, in photography, a bit less so. Jim Goldberg has attempted more personal, multifaceted approaches in several of his book projects, as has Bill Burke in I Want To Take Picture, and Mine Fields- and I'm sure they're not the only two examples. Based on its critical success, you can bet Redheaded Peckerwood will serve as a template for further photographic exploration in books to come...

What really caught my eye however, was the wonderfully understated Road Ends In Water by Eliot Dudik. Comprised mostly of rural landscapes in South Carolina, it has a very serene presence, a tranquility that perhaps belies a certain sense of unease and underlying tension. Although photographed to document these environs before the consequences of development, a lot of the isolated areas depicted look like they were made to hide whatever one would want to bury deep and forgotten. Perhaps Eva Leitolf's photographs have scarred me for life from ever relaxing when immersed in tranquil environments and imagery. Nevertheless, isn't the photo of a spendidly large and graceful multi-armed tree covered with Spanish Moss named The Hanging Tree?

Despite my "misgivings," these photographs by Eliot Dudik demand to be seen- over and over again, if only for their beauty.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Lee Friedlander- Man On Fire!

Mannequins? You're shittin' me, right? Mannequins- as... "subject matter!!!" Time better spent looking for ol' Jimbo Hoffa than beating that deader than dead horse.

Who? Friedlander? Right- got it. Fraenkel Gallery's dragging out and dusting off some vintage prints from their drawers and throwing them up on the walls as they slip into early summer slacker mode and exit out the back door. Really not interested...

Gotta admit, that was pretty much the scenario playing round my head- after all, what else could it be? Hhmmm... How bout a near eighty year old coming out with a new set of images that breathes fire into a "theme" long thought beneath even the most frivolous of consideration? This geriatric marvel has been a man possessed in the twenty first century, turning out such powerhouse photographic legacies as Sticks and Stones, and America By Car. Never a great fan of his in the seventies, eighties or the nineties, Friedlander has been hitting them outta the park this century with a steroid enhanced, human growth hormone induced sense of seeming ease and urgency...

Your average mannequin photo is a fairly one note affair- an odd juxtaposition, a lifelike resemblance, the real life passerby unknowingly "interacting" with their plaster conspirator. Get it? Friedlander doesn't limit his images to these one trick ponies, he realizes if he's going to instill any kind of life and originality into this subject matter, he's going to have to squeeze every note and detail available- but then, this almost octogenarian has more creativity flowing in his veins than four twenty year olds.

These dummies may be deader than dead but Friedlander's compositions are rife with non stop details, patterns, and activity that counteract and interact with each other, fighting for dominance all throughout the frame. Midsections dissolve into storefronts, palm trees protrude from necklines, feet support highrises- in many cases, it's the reflections that dominate. In fact, many of these shots aimed directly into store interiors serve more as an innovative twist on street photography, a reflection of the modern day hustle and landscape of twenty first century America. And did I mention how absolutely gorgeous these 35mm, B&W silver gelatin, 16x20 full frame prints look? Add another book to the must get list (apparently currently available only from Fraenkel).

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Portraits From Beyond- Steven Hirsch

I haven't even had the time to enjoy these portraits from Steven Hirsch's Little Sticky Legs, let alone read the accompanying stories. But I've been quite the fan of his Courthouse Confessions for some time now- and am most definitely looking forward to spending some time with these!

And before you roll over laughing at all these guys, remember that the late Dr. John E. Mack, Pulitzer Prize winner and head of the Psychiatry Dept. at Harvard Medical School (yes, that Harvard), bet his entire reputation on the fact that many of these people, and their experiences, were both very real, and very genuine...

Friday, May 11, 2012

Very Much Needed...

Has come to my attention that I've somehow managed to overlook No Caption Needed recently. Very much my loss, as witnessed here, and countless other posts. Lots of catching up to do...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Kid Is Back!

...and the new computer running! Still working out various little quirks with Windows 7, and am going to try out Paint Shop Pro X4 on trial basis if only not just because it has a full set of Curves, but it also supports 16 bit editing- unlike Elements... which actually costs more! Understand it has its own quirks, but definitely seems worth a try...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Glimmer Of Improbability

Big review of the photographic legacy of Paul Graham along with a few comments from yours truly at PhotoBook Club on his more recent exploits. But enough about him (and me), when is the up and coming photographic visionary of the 21st. century going to publish the beautiful, glossy, digital noise equivalent of this all time analogue classic??? 

Monday, May 7, 2012


Fun and surprisingly well done- a thriller with an eerily comedic touch. Kinda like Fargo meets Norway... with better looking people.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

It's Official...

My computer is in a comma, can't get online- and rather than pay the $100 or more to fix a five year old computer, it makes more sense to just invest in a new one (this Dell has served me well). So I should hopefully be up and running anew by the weekend of Stephen Colbert's birthday- I only know that because of the great calendar that Tom Wik sent me hanging on my wall. Problem is, by then I may be a bit too accommodated to this casual lifestyle of posting at leisure, if at all...

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

We'll Never Know...

John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King- we will never know the names and faces of all their shooters (and killers). There was plenty of circumstantial evidence that Sirhan Sirhan was the perfect Manchurian Candidate before this most recent revelation- the incredible suppression and denial of evidence in all three of these cases (that so shaped the latter 20th century) by the authorities of law and justice continues to boggle to this day...