Monday, December 31, 2012

Gotta Love it!

Bye bye 2012!

Was organizing a year's worth of found web photos, and there it was... the jewel amongst jewels! Yeah, you bet I'm jealous! 
Tried Tin Eye for origin, but got nowhere. Lemme know if faked- and will (sadly) remove.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Canteen Photo Competition

Having just been rejected, the last thing I'm in the mood for is yet another competition, of any sort. Canteen Magazine however, is one organization that already has a history of trying to do things right- unlike 99.99% of other "contests" (not that that's gonna get yours truly any closer to winning, mind ya). But their whole judging process, unlike all others, is very much transparent, and even live when it comes to crunch time. There's even a certain amount of audience participation. Yes, you can actually learn from the experience, imagine that- participant or not! Every contest should be run under like guidelines. Short notice? You bet! Ya got two days (not their fault)- just found out myself...

Thursday, December 27, 2012

On Portraiture, And The New Year...

Guess this the time where we reflect on the passing year, and contemplate the new. It's been an interesting one for sure- photographically and otherwise. Not going to post a best of book list (just click on photo books on the lower right for that). Will say this- surprised I survived yet another year in blogdom; seems every time I was about to call it a day, something else would come up to inspire anew. Don't know if that will continue into the new year- plus, it finally looks like I'm going to embark on a portrait project that's been on the backburner for many a year. I love looking at portraits (incl the few decent ones I manage to take), but don't especially enjoy taking them (ie- interacting with fellow humans). My feelings on humanity are mixed to say the least, equal measures of: revulsion and empathy, disgust and admiration, pity and pride. More importantly, many times, even you don't know exactly what you're trying to get in a portrait, as you continue to chip away in the hope that something will come up to give it the spark of life that will separate it from your average snap shot. It is after all, a fairly intense experience with very minimal tools at your disposal, particularly when operating with little more than subject and backdrop. Sometimes it works out- gloriously so; most times, not so much... least for me.

And then you're stuck having to explain that it's not their fault; in fact, it's your fault, and your fault alone for not being able to express what attracted you in the first place- your lack of vision, your lack of artistry. And then after you hear it emanate and spill out your own mouth, you can well expect to experience their dashed hopes, their disappointment, and (sometimes) even their veiled resentment. So why the hell did you waste their time and effort, why the pretense, why walk around with that camera like you're all that if you don't even know what the fuck you're doing!?!?

Which is why I generally shy away from formal portraits, unless the shame of not doing it absolutely exceeds the possibility of all the aforementioned. Which is exactly the case here; just gotta try! Perhaps if I don't post much it means it is, in fact, going well- or that I'm in absolute hell, cursing myself for knowingly going where I'm not at all comfortable. Yeah, I know all the stuff about creating your best when you go outside your comfort zone. Whatever. Still have more aplenty to explore within that relative "comfort zone," but truth is, I can't afford to travel anymore and photograph what I like, so it's a helluva lot cheaper to try and make the world come to me. I'll be over the moon if I can get a dozen good strong images outta this and pay my subjects 'justice.' On the other hand, if all else fails, I'll be damned if I don't get at least one decent shot for the effort before I close it down as a noble failure.

So, we'll see... This time next year might have something interesting to report (and show), otherwise- don't ask! Whaddayou got planned down the line...

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


I was pretty much steering clear of this whole fiasco simply because I don't use Instagram- or have a smartphone, a tattoo, use Twitter or even a digital camera for that matter, but I digress. Got sucked into it via this APE book review. And it took all of two seconds to realize that it's simply a matter of Facebook's (that altruistic non-profit that's single handedly saving the world) latest ploy to make themselves ever richer by bleeding and robbing their very own customers of their personal work without their knowledge or consent. And in return, said providers of creative content would receive zero compensation- a Win/Win for Facebook and Instagram, which are now one in the same.

Meanwhile, a class action lawsuit has ensued and Instagram has backtracked- sorta, somewhat... not really:

However, Instagram kept language that gave it the ability to place ads in conjunction with user content, and saying "that we may not always identify paid services, sponsored content, or commercial communications as such." It also kept the mandatory arbitration clause (forcing users to waive their rights to participate in a class action lawsuit except under very limited circumstances).

Amazingly, not so amazingly, you have your usual assortment of fools who say there's really nothing wrong with any of that- probably many of the same who think there's nothing wrong with Ron Haviv personally selling photographs to the very weapons manufacturers who maim and kill the victims and survivors he photographs. Just part(s) of the great circle of life, I suppose.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

How Does That Camel/Needle Thingie Go Again?

When he was in New York in June, the Prince ordered a $1,000 dessert, which was served in a $300 Baccarat goblet complete with edible gold and Tahitian vanilla ice cream.

Here's hoping some of the younger kids on this super rich shit list get some measure of the necessary upbringing and life experience that will elicit the incentive to step out of their self indulgent bubbles of privilege and avarice to engage a very troubled world that could well benefit from their resources and potential- not to mention the good they would be doing themselves...

Friday, December 21, 2012

Movin' On...

The Badlands, SD

Dang!!! Seems the kid can't get accepted even in the local group show. Submitted a half dozen scans of what I thought were some pretty decent images that fit the theme rather well. There must be some truly stellar, drop dead gorgeous, ground breaking work they're gonna be hanging... Anxious to see it myself!

A slap in the face is hard enough to take when you're young and got your whole life ahead of you (to be abused and rejected ad infinitum-- I mean to learn and grow from our mistakes). You shake your head, keep moving and laugh the shit off...

Besides, look what can happen when one is not only left to one's own devices, but actually encouraged! Wouldn't wish it on anyone, anywhere! I mean, sure you get to make a whole lotta money, fuck whoever and be the youngest artist ever to solo at the Whitney... A chilling indictment, is it not?

On the bright side- least I don't have to spend money on prints and mats I can't afford (though after all that editing work, think I'll ask Uncle AMEX for a pair of 16X20 inkjets as a small consolation prize for Christmas). Anyway, here's all six rejects I submitted, and judges be damned- I don't think they look half bad...

Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Crissy Field, SF

Mt. Rushmore, SD

Mountain City, Nevada

Greenpoint, Brooklyn

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

PBS: We Know Better & We Look The Other Way

Because it's all about the $$$, don't ya know. And we at the Petroleum Broadcasting System will take it any way it comes, from whoever wants to give it- no matter how red their hands run with the blood of their victims. Because... it's all about the $$$, don't ya know!

So give us your tired, your poor chemical conglomerate and worldwide petrochemical corporate dollars; we don't care what you've done, how you've done it, and who or how many you've done it to. Shit, we don't care if you're even still doing it! We swallow our pride with the best of 'em- in fact, we do it better than anyone else 'cause, fact is, we know better (and unlike FOX- so should our audience).

A few dead villagers here or there- no problem, entire local economies or environments devastated for generations... hey, the cost of doing business! How else would we bring you our wonderful nature programs, if not through the support of the very people who do so much to actively promote its destruction?        

We're PBS-  Happy Holidays!!! 

PS- This whole tirade resulted from watching the vomit inducing Chevron commercial promoting their feel good Nigerian AIDS program on PBS. The latest in the continuum of corporate killers they enthusiastically court and profit from so they can green wash themselves of their sins on our public airways.

Monday, December 17, 2012

When Cowards Hide...

Behind their guns.

These cowardly sons of bitches, these so called "leaders" fight over themselves each and every election year to be the first in line for the blood money these merchants of death bestow upon them- and now they scurry and hide when confronted with the inevitable consequences. For these are not the children of the streets of the inner city, these are not children from the backwoods of our nation's trailer parks, they are not from a pacifist, politically irrelevant margin of American society, they are not even the average Joe's of the forgotten middle class. These are children from the families who look and dress and live like them, who drive the same cars as them, and live in the same neighborhoods. These are the children of families who can still afford, and demand The American Dream. This blood may well come with a price.

And now, instead of confidently remaining silent till FOX and business as usual have paved the way clear of those who mourn and grieve and ask how many more- now they hide and cower.

Update: Word is The NRA has taken down its Facebook Page...

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Happy Holidays From The Land Of The Free!!!

Where We Train (and shoot 'em) As Young As Possible!

As every gun enthusiast knows, the more guns we have, and the more powerful they are, the safer we all become in this God fearing country- simple logic that is clearly proven over and over again every time we have a mass shooting with dozens of slaughtered innocents.

Everyone knows that 20yr old could have killed just as many little kids (and adults) with a sharp stick or his bare hands in the same amount of time- had he wanted to! Ready access to firearms is crucial to this great country's safety, security and peace of mind

Friday, December 14, 2012

Kill- Yes! Save? Not So Much...

Despite the plethora of suicides that take place directly from one of the world's most famous and beautiful landmarks, a proposed and approved suicide prevention barrier has yet to be built. This country, the most efficient and innovative in the history of mankind when it comes to killing people the world over has to be shamed into saving its own citizens on any front (incl healthcare). And still...

As much as we should applaud this man, it is a stark reminder of how an America which could once pride itself in confronting (and sometimes even resolving) issues and challenges, is now mostly expert in avoiding denying them!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Waiting In Vain...

So I waited a whole goddamn year to take this one photo. Dissolve, fade...

About ten years ago when I first came to San Francisco, I was ambling about one evening after a few beers and just happened to turn and glance on a sight that stopped me dead cold with awe and delight. There before me stood a giant, humongous bust of Michelangelo's David, as large as the full figure original. It was situated in a building lobby and plainly visible directly from the street. I was dumbstruck. Huge, imposing, gaudy even, but beautiful all the same. 

For years I looked all over downtown for the damn thing but could not find it. After a while, I just figured it was more a temporary installation than an hallucination, and left it at that. That all changed January of this year... there it was- sitting pretty and mocking me, defiant and aloof as ever! It was not downtown at all, but in a sketchier, less traversed area I don't usually frequent. So I whip out the ol' WA and I'm just about to press the shutter, when this woman comes up and says, "Think it looks good now- should have seen it a couple of weeks ago with the Christmas wreath around its neck." And then, of course, I couldn't take the picture. She had implanted an even better picture in my head that made the current one sober by comparison. And so I vowed to wait and forgo the single to hit the home run later this December. This time there was no forgetting the location. 

Lo, last week I returned to take what was rightfully mine, having waited so diligently, so patiently- but again, it was just not to be. The full sized neck wreath had been replaced with one sitting daintily atop his head as a Roman victory crown befit a Caesar. It certainly looked cool, almost made me laugh- had it not deflated an entire year's worth of anticipation. Cute, imaginative- but visually, it wasn't nearly the home run the much larger wreath presented. Maybe next year...

Monday, December 10, 2012

Photographer, Hero, Human

This issue comes up every couple of years, whenever the photo warrants. In part because it raises some pretty significant questions, questions which will never be adequately answered to anyone's satisfaction. And the first one that always gets asked is, "Why didn't the photographer save him/her?" Of course, the question that should be asked is- would I have saved him or her? And if 99.99% of those who asked themselves were open and honest, they would simply reply, "I have no fucking clue!" Of course, nearly everyone fancies doing the right thing- and everyone loves being the hero. Truth is very (very) few are the latter, which is why only a handful truly earn the title. Thousands passed that shoeless man on that cold night in Times Square recently- and only one did the right thing, and that was far from an "heroic act."

Wesley Autrey is one person who is very much a hero. He actually did what so many others can only dream of... in their very worst of nightmares. And like all true heroes, he was lucky beyond belief- lucky the person he rescued did not thrash about in panic, lucky the trench they jumped into was deep enough to hold them both (they are not uniform in size) while the train passed harmlessly over them. Had it been but two inches shallower, there are those who would have labeled him 'Fool' at his own funeral.

That uneasy and life defining borderline between bravery and foolhardiness is a decision that gets crossed between seconds. James Nachtwey has personally intervened and saved lives on location. Why would he choose to not only put himself within the line of fire, but directly within the gun sights? Why place himself within the picture frame, beyond the measure of self preservation? Perhaps it's altruism in its truest sense, or perhaps 'nothing more' than a way to ease the recurring nightmares. Only he can say, maybe. But it's a safe bet that if such behavior were the norm, he would be neither photographer, nor alive.

The fact that a person is a photo/journalist does not mean that they have an increased responsibility to personally intervene in a matter of life or death; neither does it magically absolve them because they are a professional- or anyone else at hand. We can bullshit ourselves till the cows come home as to when or why someone, anyone has the responsibility, opportunity or wherewithal to risk life and limb for the sake of an-other. Truth is, unless you or I are in that place, at that time, neither of us have the slightest clue...

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Friday, December 7, 2012

So Where's The Video?

For all those who perpetually ask why don't we have an overwhelming plethora of irrefutable photographic evidence documenting UFOs. Shit, show me one (one!) crappy video of these guys moving around- and we've known exactly where they are... for decades!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Nick Hannes- Red Journey, And Beyond...

I first became aware of the work of Nick Hannes through his book Red Journey, his photographic pilgrimage through the former Soviet bloc. Truth is, his other work is every bit as good and maybe even better. Put some time aside and enjoy going through this photojournalist's various collections, as prolific as they are good!

Nick Hannes: Red Journey
from Daylight Multimedia on Vimeo.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

NASA: We're Assholes

After Curiosity chief scientist ecstatically proclaimed, "This data is gonna be one for the history books!" Never A Straight Answer delivers with a world resounding-----  meh...

Monday, December 3, 2012

A New Dawn...

Photo: S. Banos

One of my personal goals this year was to finally make a decent scan good enough to have a lab make a large, (and hopefully) quality B&W inkjet print- which would be my first ever. This week I finally made good on that resolution with a 2007 photo taken on my first (and only) cross country. Of course, not only did I just happen to pick a negative that ran the gamut of tonal extremes, but as an extra kick, the entire foreground and main subject (where it counted most) just happened to be the same exact value (ie- cement grey). This meant I would not only be testing current inkjet technology, I would also be running my meager Photoshop (Elements 9) skills to their very limit (on my cheap, uncalibrated monitor), as I desperately tried to achieve some measure of agreeable tonal separation. And almost give up I did...

Finally, I got to a place where I was relatively pleased, and knew could not better. All that awaited was the disaster of how it would translate to print... too dark, too light, too contrasty, too muddy, too... At least I could say, I tried.

Dropped by the local lab Photoworks in San Francisco, picked out the paper that most mimicked darkroom glossy, asked for a full frame 20in print and vowed not to be disappointed at the result a week later- though that much was pretty much guaranteed. At $45, at least I couldn't bitch about how much I paid.

The week goes by, I untape the two cardboard sleeves- and there before me was one perfectly printed B&W photograph! Perfect contrast, resolution- tonal values that actually rival and compete with silver gelatin... I'm talking the works! It was beautiful!

For $100 in a custom lab back in the (analog) day, I would have gotten a work print with minimum dodging and printing- wouldn't have looked nearly as good as my online low res jpegs. Fact is, I could have paid $250 and not have gotten as good a print. And I sure don't wanna think about, let alone mention how much time, effort, money and materials I would have spent and wasted before I would have come up with an equal result.

I haven't made an exhibition quality print in ten years, haven't had the space (or the money). Five years ago I rented a darkroom to make myself a 16x20, I made two test prints- and stopped. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry, literally. I no longer even had the patience to nail the basic exposure down, forget the near infinite burns and dodges (or the localized bleaching).

They say you learn patience as you get older. Bullshit. Your only chance at patience is when you're young, dumb and clueless. Ask your local recruiter.

Long story short- things don't usually work out like this in my life (ie- the way they're supposed to). Thank you, PHOTOWORKS- I'll be back. There's a group show coming up, think I'll enter a couple of new prints...
 (photo taken a block or two from the world famous Corn Palace).