Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Matt Black- After The Fall

Photo: Matt Black

I can't say more about Matt Black's photography than I already have, and that said- it's good to hear that After The Fall, the third part of his People of the Clouds project, has been completed. And I certainly hope a book is soon in the making...

Sadly, this latest chapter documents the wholesale destruction of an indigenous peoples' land- land they have successfully cultivated for centuries... a slow and mysterious destruction that occurred at the same time they adopted the government sanctioned methods of modern industrialized agriculture. A move that has condemned indigenous farmers and their lands in countless developing countries throughout the world.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Bullets, Guns And Fantasies...

After the recent shooting in the Colorado movie theater, there were hundreds, thousands, millions of postings from gun enthusiasts throughout the good ol' USA proudly proclaiming: how much safer we would all be if only more of us were strapped, how they could have personally saved everyone in that theater if only they were packing, how a trained, well armed and responsible citizenry could be easily counted on to reduce and negate any such occurrences from ever happening now and forever...

And despite this most blatant, blood red, proof positive that these idiots do not know what the hell they are talking about, they will continue to tout (and people will continue to believe) their moronic, self delusions as absolute truth- a truth every bit as accurate as these trained policemen's aim.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Puntured Realities

Is it any wonder that someone who subjected himself to one of the most excruciatingly painful drug treatments ever devised by man to cure himself of a life threatening illness, and was in turn rewarded with life itself, would not then be lured by drugs that championed the promise of achieving the very thing he most wanted in that life?

A couple of years ago in the San Francisco MUNI subway system, the only advertisements plastered for months from one end of a subway platform to the other was for "the little purple pill;" giant, billboard sized posters of humongous purple pills enveloped and surrounded adult and underaged commuters alike in a totally captive environment!

I'm not making excuses for Lance Armstrong, he made his own decisions. But we're every bit as hypocritical if we allow ourselves to think that we've somehow bettered society by simply singling him out for punishment (however well deserved) while the pharmaceutical/industrial complex pumps hundreds of  millions of dollars into the body politic through its lobbyists each and every year.

If he is stripped of his seven titles, who amongst that hallowed band of dopers will then be subjected to equal scrutiny before being crowned the "clean" winner? Those seven years best remain vacant- or the governing bodies themselves should be subject to a most stringent review...

If only the banksters were pursued with such diligence and perseverance...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

An Olympian Routine

Photos: S. Banos

New York is still a great place if you're twenty or a tourist, and making like the latter, I quickly settled into a routine once back- going out to whatever part of the city I wanted to reacquaint myself with that day, returning home in the evening to watch the Olympics with the folks. And as I write this (ensconced in a sweater in the middle of August), I must say I enjoyed being in that 90 degree heat the whole week through. I know some will curse me for saying that and I might well feel differently had I spent the whole of summer there- but I've come to realize that extremes of weather, hot or cold, add a heightened level of sensory awareness and experience lacking in this isolated dome of atmosphere called San Francisco (land of perpetual Spring and Fall). The one thing I almost didn't survive was the mind numbingly AWFUL Olympics' closing debacle! Atrocities like a Who tribute band, and Eric Idle looking every bit the senile escapee long lost and forgotten- talk about leaving a bad taste in one's mouth! In fact, just about every grand spectacle on parade was truly frightening...

Photo: S. Banos

The first photo above came about while exploring the hipsterized section of Williamsburg in Brooklyn. Watching that front screen door swing open and closed, I gradually became entranced in its slow summer rhythm. A couple of steps later, I came upon the second. Like many of you, I've taken countless walks, camera in hand... only to feel crushed coming home with nothing to show for the whole day's effort. Now I take it more in stride, realizing it's all part of a continuous, ongoing effort- tomorrow brings another day. Still, can't help but come home a little less tired when ya think ya got something in the till...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Paolo Pellirazi- The Anastsia Photo Gallery

Photo: Paolo Pellirazi

The Anastasia Photo Gallery is by far my favorite in NYC. Unfortunately, since I no longer reside there, my access is somewhat limited- but I'm always amazed, humbled and inspired when privileged to enter this street level gallery conveniently located on The Lower East Side. This year I was treated to Paolo Pellirazi's panoramic wonders, full of beauty, humor and the inherent elegance these elongated images so naturally exude. The photograph above is one of the most beautiful color photographs ever taken in the history of photography. And as silly a statement as that might be, and is, you'd have a hard time arguing otherwise if you saw the actual print- such amazingly vivid color delivered with such swirling subtlety is nothing short of magical!

I've always had a soft spot for panoramics, which are kissed with a certain sense of magic whenever they succeed (which is often the case with Mr. Pellirazi), and am happy to add his name to the list...

Photo: Paolo Pellirazi

Monday, August 20, 2012

WOW! Like- Double WOW!!!

(AP Photo/Orlin Wagner, File)
No sir, all them fancy books aint gonna learn ya what ya really need to know in this (6,000 yr old) world...

"If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down"  -Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.); and currently running for US Senate.

Reminds one of Republicans learned reassurances concerning the wonders of our "self regulating" free market system.

This here's the US of A talking world... we're not like them Commies or Muslims with their ignorant, backwards ways. We're Americans goddamnit!

Sunday, August 19, 2012


I submitted this photo (containing approx. 8 security cameras) to Mike Johnston at TOP as a "counter balance" (if such is the appropriate term) to his post Friday concerning how we as photographers (professional and otherwise) continue to be unduly harassed by "authorities" (of what I'm not quite sure), as we go about doing what we are legally and unquestionably allowed to do. So I was quite honored to have it suddenly appear in a Random Excellence post...

Photo: S. Banos

I've always looked upon our flag with mixed emotions- proud for all the great good it inevitably stands for, shamed for all the... well, undeniable evil perpetrated in its name not only upon its own citizens, but on those of countless other countries. Of course, most citizens either conveniently choose to dismiss or deny the latter (eg- racism, economic enslavement both foreign and domestic, wars of convenience, etc). If only the average citizen was as aware of the abhorrent injustices committed in our name to this day as they are of the everyday occurrences of their favorite celebrities and sport teams! Still, I've always tried to maintain some small semblance of hope that America would continue to improve, if only by increment. Americans after all, like most people anywhere, are a generally generous and decent lot.

I wish I could be as proud, as confident, as hopeful for the future as that young father posing with his infant child! I suppose parenthood demands it. But optimism is no longer part of my outlook, and I'm not even talking economy. Basic liberties and cherished civic guarantees are gradually and purposely being eroded and eradicated- and they are as nothing compared to the sacrilege we have savaged upon our environment.

Cliche as it may be, and is, even the most cursory acquaintance with history will reveal our growing and undeniable parallels with The Roman Empire, particularly the part labelled- The Fall. Our obsession with celebrity and spectacle, consumerism and self have deluded and blinded us to the inevitable consequences of our own actions.

The roar of the Coliseum beckons...

Friday, August 17, 2012

Elad Lassry- Women (065, 055)

Elad Lassry- Women (065, 055)
One of the most "original" photographs I saw recently in NY- at least in terms of size and venue (a billboard adjoining the High Line).

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

American Portraits- Leon A. Borensztein

I saw quite a few books on my recent trip to NYC at Strand, Dashwood and MOMA, a good half dozen that I wanted to buy (more on each later), and of the whole lot, two that I actually bought (thank you Amex)- the two that affected me most viscerally, both of which must someday be added to a revised and expanded Best Photo Book of All Time listing.

American Portraits- Leon A. Borensztein

When I look at American Portraits, I immediately think Milton Rogovin meets Awkward Family Photos. And despite that seemingly incongruous hybrid analogy, the book cries classic from the moment you open it, that rare combination of art that effectively combines melancholy with humor in a package made from the heart.

This is what masterful, evocative portraiture is all about- modest in presentation, complex in the range of emotions and aesthetics that it both challenges and commands. Leon Borensztein knew he was in the presence of some particularly potent subject matter as he went about making commercial studio portraits of every day working class subjects in their homes. Upon completing the standard commercial fare, he then switched to B&W, and got serious, often going wide to reveal modest details of the subject's home life that the backdrop would obscure, and asking his subjects to dispense with the smiles (to which they often complied)- once "they removed their proverbial mask," the photographs came to life. I'm certainly not going to get into what portraits do and don't reveal- we should all be familiar with that territory by now. What is not that familiar (despite the billions of photos taken daily and the hundreds if not thousands of star photographers), are portraits of this calibre and presence.

Truth be told, when I first saw this book online, I was not all that impressed- this is not essentially new or revolutionary technique or subject matter we're talking about. Good, somewhat interesting, but... Most of us have by now hopefully learned not to judge the quality of a photograph by an online jpeg- and yet, it is only dawning on me that the same pertains exponentially to photographic books. Clearly, this is not the medium to see or appreciate the gorgeous reproductions this book presents- or the love it exudes.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A New York Frame Of Mind

After some years of not living in NYC, I emerge from the subway on 14st, luggage in hand and this klutz steps on my foot. I give him a look, and he fires one back saying neither "Sorry" nor "Excuse me," but, "You stepped in front of me!" And before I could even think of what to say or how to say it, my mouth already on voice activation mode, immediately blurted out, "You lying sack of shit, you walked up behind me!" 

0.2 seconds out of the subway, and I'm back in a NY frame of mind...

Monday, August 6, 2012

No Immediate Deadline...

Photo: S. Banos

There's been some talk about where photography's headed next, the next trend, the next new thing, the brand new cutting edge of where photography's going to take us and what we'll all be doing with our ever present, ever clicking cameras- as if we're talking about the next digital firmware update. And all of this at the same time that we remind ourselves that photography is, indeed, a most limited medium. 

There has been a general and long running insecurity that photography has absorbed from its critics and willingly bequeathed upon itself- as if apologizing for its very existence, while perpetually seeking out validation as a creative and legitimate counterpart to its more established, art world predecessors. Forty years ago photography couldn't compete with painting because print sizes were too small, the eighties put an end to that argument. And now, we've taken every supposed photo imaginable, eight times over, in every conceivable size and format. Only, painting got there first, as well... Is it also sweating how and when it will get to its next new thing?

Personally, I'm not all that concerned about this need for the new, or more exactly, I'm not concerned with the seeming rush to get there, as if what we have now is so utterly, totally inadequate, exhausted, or "perfected." Technology may be outpacing the creativity needed to master it, or more likely, like evolution itself- it leads us down many false or finite paths before the dust clears and we finally "arrive." Photography, as all other art forms, will evolve at its own particular and peculiar pace; it is not a particular style of music (dying or otherwise)- it is the music! And is the latter itself at a standstill? Forget jazz- rock and rap seem every bit the more tired than anything in photo land. Or am I just too old to hear the sound of the new golden age all around me? Another discussion perhaps.

Styles will always absorb, transcend and regenerate. One day technology may give us photographs that "open up" into interactive holograms. I may, or may not be around, and at any rate can certainly wait. For now, photography is, as it always has been, a medium so wonderfully and imperfectly suited to dealing with... the past.

I'm leaving for home (NYC)* this week- see the folks, catch a few exhibits and books, some pizza, bagels and egg creams. See yas in a couple of weeks... Peace, & Congratulations, Curiosity (BTW)!       * drop me a line if ya'd like to say hello...

Gun Reality In The USA

Let's make one thing clear- the reason The NRA is so utterly gun ho about guns is not because of their bullshit premise that the government is going to one day suddenly turn on them. Why, oh why, would a government run predominantly by Whites turn on the very White people who pay them off so handsomely every single election year? I'd respect the NRA a lot more if they simply stated their obvious goal- to make sure that there are more guns and ammo of each and every kind in the hands of whites, than in the hands of their fellow black and brown citizens who they so fervently fear and detest.


And James Hansen also leaves little doubt. Whether it's rotting fish, dried up crops or your fried front lawn- how much longer are the brain dead going to deny the obvious? Answered my own question, didn't I?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Idyllic Natural Beauty Of Faking It

Photo(s): Carlo Bevilacqua
Incredibly moving and beautiful imagery that really lends power and substance to its subject matter- until you discover that uhmm... some of these idyllic scenarios have been "altered." More than a tad ironic that Mr. Bevilacqua  chose to document and celebrate those who purposely prefer simplicity in their life- then deliberately chose technology to alter the very images of their chosen reality... Can "art" and intent be any more conflicted?

Photographic Immortality!

Photo: Larissa Leclair

That's right folks, the kid's been accepted (and so can you) into the hallowed and invulnerable halls of indie photobookdom at The Independent PhotoBook Library. Years hence, long after the approaching apocalypse, when nothing but ashes and a handful of random, rusted 35mm cameras remain... deep within the inner recesses of their impenetrable vaults- a small, brave band of indie photo books will survive and resurrect the sacred art of photography for the small, lost remainder of humanity to carry on...

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Lost Legend- Rodriguez

Walk down any city block in any given city, and depending on the size of that city, you'll automatically walk past dozens, hundreds, thousands of legends in their own minds. Now what is completely and genuinely rare is- how many legends have you heard of who aren't even aware of their own uniquely singular status? And how is it that a living legend of South Africa with his roots in the Sixties is "discovered" alive and anonymous in his native America of the 21st Century?

Such is the very bizarre and intriguing story of one Sixto Rodriguez now revealed in the new documentary Searching for Sugarman- the story of a (supposedly) dead legend whose music helped inspire a political (anti-apartheid) movement in a foreign country while he remained unknown in his own to the very day. Hearing his debut album Cold Fact, one is surprised to hear a work that still resonates with a voice and poetry eerily reminiscent of equal measures Dylan and Cohen.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Lucid Dreaming

Photo: Lisa Wood

Saw this on Valencia St. in SF and knew it would make a cool square format photo. Told the wife- and... Instagram!