Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Swamp Gas Clearing*

Again, that's not me talking, that's from two of the leading military officers connected with the former US Air Force investigatory commission into UFOs- of which its lead investigator, Dr. Allen Hynek*, eventually proclaimed it a propaganda tool of the US government explicitly created to debunk the UFO phenomena.

* Dr. Hyneck, much to his regret, was the originator of the term "swamp gas" when he was still in UFO denial mode.

Friday, September 28, 2012


Some may criticize SAMSARA for being an overblown Nat Geo come to life, void of any real message, and while there is no one particular message imbedded in this movie's DNA- it's pretty much bring what you've got and make it your own, because if you can't, there's a lot more wrong with you than any film can fix. Actually, I was struck that much of the film had a visual aesthetic much closer to COLORS magazine than Nat Geo, and even though much of the subject matter has already been covered by many a familiar photojournalist, the film does offer its share of surprises. For instance, despite our familiarity with photographs from Katrina, 70mm moving images of the same scenarios certainly add a depth and emotion absent when viewing them merely as stills- something to be learned there, or just a matter of familiarity?

Highlight: Heavily tattooed Latino in LA gently rocking and ever so lovingly caressing his infant daughter.
Should have been left on cutting room floor: Male performance artist doing his weird performance thing that had I don't know what to do with the rest of the film.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

That Seventies Show...

Last week, several of us decided to try and decipher "what's new" in photography despite the mantra that it's forever stuck in the seventies, the reasons for the latter perhaps as obvious as they are longstanding. While the last decade did experience a near sea change in technology, photographic and otherwise, it was basically a change in how we edit, collect and disseminate our images; this leading edge technology basically replicated analogue photography while making it faster, more convenient and supposedly (depending on who you ask) more economical.

Little in the way of genuinely "original" work has understandably come about because of that technology (not counting HDR- digital's version of black velvet painting). In fact, the one body of work that did manage to produce a "new" visual aesthetic was completely old school- the large format, narrow field of focus look inevitably doomed to tire as quickly as it appeared. And I'm betting someone came up with that one in the seventies too, but was either too embarrassed someone would think that they just didn't know how to work a view camera, or the editor/curator they showed their pictures to was in turn, too embarrassed to exhibit them for fear people would think he or she was taken by- someone who didn't know how to work a view camera. I suppose we're now either more secure to be original- or just more desperate. To be fair, I should also mention the rather ingenious Google Street View projects that were, in fact, due to recent technology- even if it could be argued that they had their genesis in the "appropriations" of the lowly Prince.

Yes, pretty much everything was done in the seventies, if not... way earlier- if only with something considerably less plastic than today's ever pliable pixel. Photographers have been effectively slicing and dicing, adding and subtracting, appropriating and recombining the photographic image since its inception- exponentially in the seventies, and once again in digital for good measure, just because we could, this time without ever leaving the comfort of our desk. And while the seventies also experienced considerable (although tame by last decade) technological advancement, what really occurred then was a veritable supernova of visual, cultural and aesthetic change that continues to influence to this very day.

The seventies started fast and furious with small format, black and white- prevalent in magazines, newspapers and the handful of photographic art galleries that existed back then. The most innovative, experimental and relevant work was all done with 35mm, right up until the mid seventies when it was blindsided seemingly overnight not only by color photography, but large format as well! Suddenly, the ubiquitous, democratic, can do 35mm was relegated to fledgling students, pj's and the printed page; and by the late seventies, the art market would be ruled by the giant color prints that large format cameras could produce and yield- the same aesthetic that rules the art market... to this very day. Large prints, large prices- it is the trade and currency that continues to rule the photographic art world. And that particular formula is yet another (if smaller) piece of the puzzle responsible for why so little is "new." The proletariat looks at their digital images on a monitor, or in books; the money players of name galleries and art institutions that control art market commerce trade in large format prints.

Collages, cut outs, massive enlargements, the usual extremes- why do we always go there when we think of "new," when they are, in fact, the most obvious retreads (no matter the technology). The hardest kinda new is to make something worth looking at within the conventional confines of that very limited medium called photography (eg- what the Bechers did then and what Gossage continues to do to this day).

Ironically, it is technology that will ultimately usher in the new, a technology that will not just replicate and facilitate current processes, but actually revolutionize its creative, artistic capabilities well beyond today's camera. "Cameras" that will seamlessly meld stills, videos, and 3D images and holograms to create stunningly novel work- not to mention lots and lots of staggeringly colossal crap!

And even then, yesterday's little light tight box will still be capable of making some very subtle works of quiet wonder.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Bruce Haley @ Anastasia Photo

One of my very favorite photogs is debuting his latest, large scale panoramic prints at my very favorite photo gallery this Tues Nite! If you happen to be down Loisaida way, do stop by- I just wish I could join y'all...

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Hate Speech Pure And Simple!

Scheduled to go up in NYC subways this Monday!?!?!?!!

And shouldn't the federal judge who ruled on it have recognized it as such, declared it as such, and banned it as such? Isn't this the worst kind of pornography? Haven't we had enough hate speech, disguised or otherwise, in this country against Blacks, Gays, Hispanics, women, Asians, Jews and Indians to last us a goddamn lifetime? Will Pamela Geller be held responsible for anyone who gets hurt or killed because she chooses to purposely incite hatred- has she apologized to or helped the victims of the anti-Muslim propaganda film which she helped fund?

"The point is any war on civilians is savagery..." - Pamela Gellar

The hypocrisy of that statement from that person is beyond any and all measure- although perhaps not beyond the measure of the thousands of Palestinian civilians (many women and children) that have been maimed and killed by very civilized Israeli tanks, planes, missiles, bombs and small arms fire both inside and outside their homes- the survivors herded into walled in camps and ghettos with no means of support... learned behavior from another "civilized" people in history.

I hope there is, in fact, a special corner of hell reserved for those who delight in the suffering of others, those who dedicate their lives to maintaining, fomenting and increasing hatred, strife and blood lust-  as if their cause was in any way noble.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Long Time Coming...

I have been waiting for the FBI personnel dept to get rid of the agents it hired that are too dangerous for fucking Christ to live with since November 1998.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Got The Picture?

 This is a story about a man and his truck. 

This is a story about a man, his numbers and his truck.
 This is the true story of a man, his "numbers," and his truck-
(along with a camera and... a few guns).

And the message he wishes to share with the whole world... and one person in particular:

Graffito Artist

I urge U to please learn this set of #s
#186  #22  #3030  #3036  #45 and  #38
I have a birds eye view nd a camera

Monday, September 17, 2012

So... What's New?

New? In the last decade? The one which has probably witnessed more technological innovation in the field of photography than any other period since its inception? How 'bout the fact that most photographers were still using the now antiquated medium called film? It's been a veritable technological sea change: digital capture that surpasses film quality, smart phones with sophisticated cameras, the ever evolving world of multimedia, photo editing software that defies reality...

Then there's the not so insignificant matter of the technology that disperses and promulgates all these images, in some cases instantaneously- of which you know better than I. Not to mention blogs, Facebook and Twitter (allowing us common folk some small voice in all that's happening), and perhaps last and not least, what some are currently referring to as "The Golden Age of Photography Books," brought on by the surge of independent publishing.

And all of that is great and good and wonderful, each of us "free" to pick and use whatever within our means and interests. But despite the glitter of technology, the most significant meaningful trend in the act of photography itself has been how some photographers have chosen to deal with their subject matter, particularly in documentary and photojournalism when dealing with the people that make up their story- not as fodder for mass consumption, but as real live human beings with lives that extend well beyond a picture frame and a deadline. As technology evolves and increasingly speeds us along, some have elected to purposely slow the process down, sometimes long enough to realize that those in front of their cameras also have eyes that see, and voices well worth listening to. These are the photographers who choose to give of themselves as their subjects give to them, those who do long term projects, projects that not only record visually but also investigate causes and seek out solutions. Ideally, the latter would also include empowering indigenous peoples to become media savvy themselves.

This more humane and responsible manner of documentation is not without precedent. Gilles Peress, Simon Norfolk, Susan Meiselas, Jim Goldberg, Sebastio Salgado, James Nachtwey, Ken Light, Mary Ellen Mark, Shelby Lee Adams and Fazal Sheikh all helped pioneer various kinds of multi-faceted, long term documentation well before the digital revolution. And while all the above have continued their work well into this century, other, newer names have committed to expand and further that very legacy:

 Aaron Huey's documentation goes well beyond the extremes of simple romanticism or blatant voyeurism and strives for solutions.

Taryn Simon's multilayered work unveils hidden myths and truths that allow making real life (and even life saving) connections.

Zoe Strauss learned, practiced and exhibited her photography on the streets of her hometown.

Eva Leitolf's deceptively subtle and stunningly beautiful images serve to accentuate the horrors they disguise.

Mr. Thomas creates controversial images that can literally shock us into awareness and recognition (or descend us yet further into denial). Pity we don't have more great art that examines its relationship with money, rather than art created solely to make it

Matt Black's old school B&W triumphs when it comes to depicting today's troubled economic and environmental landscape.

Brenda Ann Keneally- The strength and passion of her commitment is surpassed only by the quality of her photography and the trust of her subjects.

Hopefully you're already familiar with these names, and their accomplishments- I've surely made some major omissions, so please feel free to include your own additions... I also think Benjamin Chesterton* of Duckrabbit blog should be mentioned for championing this very kind of dedicated photography not only on his blog, but in practice- through his advocacy, workshops and multi-media productions.  * In the interest of full disclosure I do "know" Mr. Chesterton, if only through the interweb. 


And then there are those who commit themselves to the long term visual documentation of the slow and sorrowful denigration of our very planet; a planet being wantonly stripped and scoured of every last ounce of its resources- 90% of the "big fish" in our oceans have been fished out and our climate would continue to increase in temperature for years even if we immediately shut down every coal plant on earth and stopped driving each and every single car, truck and airplane. And still, we continue to do... Nothing! We're approaching the very tipping point before ecosystems worldwide begin a nonstop cascade to oblivion. Photography may not offer answers, but it can help shine a light on the enroaching threat(s) surrounding us all, threats that will continue to endanger us well beyond the distractions of today and tomorrow's dessert and celebrity photos.

The following photographers are producing the kind of photographic documentation, and evidence, that if not willfully ignored, would make believers of the most ardent deniers. The plethora of highly detailed and comprehensive work created by the first three photographers have expanded into film, the last two photographers are perhaps less known but provide exemplary images of an environment and world community in crisis...

*I criticized Mr. Burtynsky years ago for not being "critical enough" of the criminals responsible for the desecration depicted in his photographs- in a word, I was wrong. There's no way he could continue to have the access he needs and maintains if he was, in fact, so openly critical. It's up to us to have the sense to notice, and the willingness to act... if only to save ourselves.

Friday, September 14, 2012


Last word rhymes with linguist (actually, it is linguist).

Photo Book Extravaganza in San Francisco

Lots happening at the Carte Blanche Gallery in San Francisco this weekend starting this evening with the Indie Photobook Library, The Photo Book Club and more...

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Out Of The Furnace- Worst Movie I (N)ever Saw

So I get free passes for a screening of an about to be Hollywood extravaganza called Out Of The Furnace. We wait on line, sign our names, their non disclosure forms, provide ID and personal info, and just before we enter, we're told we have to hand in our cell phones for which they will not be responsible. Confiscation is not in their literature. Mine's a cheap ass dumb phone but my wife balks at first with her iPhone before finally relenting.
  •  All non-camera cell phones and pagers must be off or on silent mode during the screening.
  • No audio or video recording devices will be allowed into the theater, including but not limited to camera phones and PDAs. If you attempt to use a recording device you will be removed from the theater immediately, forfeit the device and you may be subject to criminal and civil liability.
Then they inspect my bag... "Sorry you can't bring in a camera." I explain it's OK, that it's just a film camera. The female inspector hesitates, and then simply advises me not to take it out during the movie. I, of course, agree but a second guy interrupts, "Sorry, no electronics." I politely explain it's not "electronic," it's a film camera that can only takes stills. A third guy says, "Sorry, no electronics." I explain a little more slowly, with more enunciation and clarity in my voice that this is, in fact, a manual, film camera. "Sorry, no electronics of any kind." Now the kid's pissed! I take the camera out, show them, ask if they see an LCD screen anywhere. "We're just following rules- No Electronics!"

I switch tactics. I agree with all three that everyone should follow their rule, it's a very fine rule, one that should be followed by all, and for good reason; we just happened to get off on the wrong foot here- since clearly... This It Is Not an "Electronic!" "Sir, you cannot..." They continued their inane mantra, and by now the wife has retrieved our cell phones, grabbed me by my sleeve and is guiding me out the Exit door under the watchful eyes of security as I continue on about: still vs video, film vs digital, electronic vs...

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Woodmans

I used to think how great it would have been to be raised in a family familiar with the arts: the meeting of like minds, the inspirational conversation, the fertile and productive exchange and appreciation of abstract ideas and concepts. Truly a family made in heaven! And what could possibly be even better- but a family of actual artists!!!

The Woodmans are a family of artists that may not have driven anyone to suicide, but definitely call to mind- be careful what you wish for! Francesca Woodman is frequently described as one very "needy" person throughout the film, and obviously, I'm in no position to place blame or explain why. But there are a couple of moments in a rather unremarkable film that made my hair stand on end. One has Francesca's mother reminiscing how wonderful it is to still have the legacy of her work, but that, but that... and I'm expecting her to say something to the effect of how she'd happily give up each and every one of those photos just to see her daughter one more time. Instead, she blurts out, "But then I think- hey, I'm an artist too!" Huh? What! Yes, by all means, we still have Y-O-U to celebrate! Wow!!! And then just a couple of minutes later, like a potent one-two combination, we find out that her abstract painter father decided to pick up a camera after her death- as we then see him in the act of taking some pretty creepy (and highly mediocre) photographs of a half naked model holding a photograph "somewhat in the spirit of Francesca." YIPES!!! Ordinarily, I might have dismissed the guy as your average old perv with a camera, but the given history adds yet another layer of certified creepiness.

Fuck art- these guys would have driven me to become one very happy, complacent and self satisfied jock, derivatives trader, furniture salesman... Anything but a goddamn artist.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Obama Sanctions CIA Murderers...

On this day when we recall the atrocity done to us, it's also good to reflect on what can "inspire" others to commit such heinous actions...

It would also behoove us to keep our eyes on the ball, instead of bearing false witness...
"In response, the C.I.A. prepared an analysis that all but pleaded with the White House to accept that the danger from Bin Laden was real."

Monday, September 10, 2012

Wiping It Off Here, Boss!

Remember that line from Cool Hand Luke? The Democratic Party pissed in the faces of their own constituency during their own convention as the latter proceeded to wipe, forget and forgive. Fortunately, this Stan chose to write about it- and if you haven't already, treat yourself and catch his blog TYWKIWDBI... 

Hell In Syria

Some of the latest victims of The Butcher of Syria caught in a truly mind boggling sequence by Tracey Shelton.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Robot Chronicle

Photo: S. Banos

I dunno... perhaps it's time to hang up the camera. I mean, after you photograph a dancing robot, what else is there possibly left?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Compliance- Reality vs Disbelief

People walked out during screenings of this movie because "nobody could be that stupid." Apparently, they either knew nothing of the the facts, or were not as finely attuned (as they themselves thought) to what human nature is capable, or incapable of... I myself thought there were several times where the film probably took "artistic license" simply to advance the original premise of the escalating (and increasingly unbelievable) storyline.

Compliance was made on a shoestring budget, and at times it shows; and perhaps in part, because it did, in fact, choose to so closely adhere to the actual facts of the case, is not likely to go down in the annals of iconic film making. The facts that inspired it however are both compelling and undeniable, and what they reveal about us as Americans, and as human beings, are less than complimentary. For that insight alone, Compliance is well worth the look.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Strange Story...

... of the man behind Strange Fruit.

Billy Holiday
Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant South,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh,
And the sudden smell of burning flesh!

Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for a tree to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.
       -Abel Meeropol

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The DNC At A Glance

I had the Democratic National Convention on in the background last night as I developed a roll of film, occasionally catching a glimpse, a glimpse of an America that looked considerably more like the America I see everyday. And despite my differences with your average Democrat, and they are considerable, I took away the feeling that they are, at the very least, a relatively sane lot. And that alone is a marked difference from the people of last week's convention, the people that honestly believe this earth is 6,000 years old, and the cynical Republican elite all too ready to support their insanity- no matter the cost.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Joel Sternfeld's Firsts...

Joel Sternfeld

Joel Sternfeld's First Pictures are pretty much just that- a sundry compilation/let's make a few bucks off the ol' archives' not so greatest hits. It has quite a few photos, a lot really, and it certainly passes my "must have at least twenty outright winners to even consider buying" test (I've incl a few faves)- but this one gets left at the store shelf nonetheless. A great many of these are from the seventies and are quite the "snapshot" in approach- not "Eggleston snapshots," actual snapshots, period. Flash on camera, say cheese! In some he literally seemed to have asked his subjects to hold up what they bought that day at the mall- no doubt, many will find them interesting, if only for the nostalgia.

Joel Sternfeld

The book is divided into different sections, including: the aforementioned mall series, a "street" series that resembles anything going on in street photography to this day, and one of teens/young adults partying and socializing. Some will definitely like this miscellaneous conglomeration through various times and styles more than others. Curiously, in Shore's American Surfaces, one is able to see how he was straining to achieve what was to follow in his breakthrough Uncommon Places. First Pictures, however, doesn't go there- absent is the more subtle, yet intricate use of color that Sternfeld's more formal, large format compositions would ultimately incorporate in American Prospects.

Joel Sternfeld

Saturday, September 1, 2012


A Separate (Winning?) Reality

Remember when Bush era, White House operatives said, "We create our own reality." That little premise seems to have survived W and become part of the overall Republican platform- and we all know how well things work out when we replace reality with... fantasy- we get everything we always wanted, and more, much, much more... Like two (unnecessary) wars, a bubble economy (thanks to getting rid of those pesky reality based regulations), record breaking heat waves, droughts and storms...

"We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers," Romney pollster Neil Newhouse said at a panel organized by ABC News.

And doing it without shame whatsoever, in a country ruled by ignorance, fear and threat- it may just be the winning ticket...