Friday, March 30, 2012

Pretty Damn Amazin'!



Gotta give the guy credit for even attempting it! Hell, I'd be pretty damn proud of myself if I could freakin' do it- no doubt get a couple of photos out of it too! But just thinking about doing something so damn mundane, and monumental, makes my mind reel- and my legs ache... Don't forget folks- the borough of Queens alone* is five times the size of Washington, DC.

Good Luck, Matt Green!

*And there's four more where that came from in NYC- The Bronx, Staten Island, Brooklyn & Manhattan. 
PS- Only the borough of the Bronx is on the mainland, Brooklyn and Queens are on Long Island.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Time And Space On The Lower East Side- Brian Rose

Photos: Brian Rose© -All Rights Reserved

When I lived in NYC, I often knew that I wasn't getting some shots I'd like simply because they required a view camera. Lee Friedlander once said something to the effect that in NYC you basically just throw out all your well worn composition tools and tricks because NY can be so two dimensional... there's no horizon line. You either got a 35mm and became a classic street photographer, or got a view camera and... tried something else. That's an oversimplification, of course- but a lotta truth nonetheless. One's more conducive to the city's everyday pulse, the other to its long term, historical and environmental context.




Back in the day, Ellis Island was the arrival point for incoming turn of the century immigrants, and The Lower East Side was the gateway to the rest of New York. It was the concentrated hub of everything good and bad that would shape and define the future of a city, a country- a century and its people.


Loisaida (the Spanglish pronunciation of Lower East Side) was in a state of flux and change in the early eighties. Much of the traditional immigrant population had long departed uptown, the boroughs- the burbs. And although Italian, Jewish and Polish sections could still be found, it was in large part repopulated by my fellow Nuyoricans- particularly to the East of Tompkins Square Park (aka- Alphabet City) and south of Houston St. At the start of that decade, one could still see three bedroom apartments being advertised for three hundred bucks well within those areas- and if you moved in in the morning, you stood to be removed of all your worldly possessions by dusk. But that Loisaida was to be short lived as Operation Pressure Point and the greed induced, over the roof rents of neighboring SOHO had prospective artists (the "shock troops of gentrification" as one writer called them) as well as musicians migrating over like some great primordial tsunami. In short order, the New Wave music scene peaked and was in turn wiped out as rapidly as it appeared by the powerhouse called Rap, and the artificiality known as Madonna.


Brian Rose started photographing New York round the same time I moved into Manhattan, and Time And Space On The Lower East Side (talk & presentation 4/02) documents a transitioning Lower East Side as the latest flight and influx of people and money transformed the very landscape around them. Before the decade was up, you would see the first inquiries for available rooms for $500. By the late '80s, it seemed as if every other bodega and every empty store front in Loisaida had been converted into art galleries by silver spooned, twenty year old, big time wannabe gallerists! They sprang up seemingly overnight like mushrooms after a forest rain- a year and a half later, over 90% of them closed shop. Gentrification had arrived full force, the push into Brooklyn was but a river and a few hours away. Of course, no one ever bothers to ask where all the low income inhabitants (many with families) were forced to flee...


Time And Space On The Lower East Side forever captures a good part of what will always be my New York- a bit broken, somewhat foreboding, and always promising more (much more) than it can ever possibly deliver.

By the end of the nineties, many of the area's neighborhoods had lost much of their historic flavor as ancient storefronts were modernized into garish fashion boutiques and trendy restaurants. Mr. Rose and his view camera not only preserved much of the architecture, but also helped portray the feel of the street itself and how the personality of those neighborhoods were affected and forever changed. And make no doubt, within this modern day historical document, there is many a finely reproduced* photographic image that photography fans everywhere will well appreciate.

* I do not own this book (yet), but if Mr. Rose assures me the reproductions are even better than those of The Lost Border- that's enough by me...

Monday, March 26, 2012

Analog Days- John Harding


Photo: John Harding

There's a helluva lot going on in John Harding's photos: multiple reflections, clashing colors, streaming lights, people lost in the everyday details of their lives... It's all the above, and more- a highly concentrated kind of energy that is simultaneously anxious and contemplative, lending a somewhat surreal edge to all the on going dramas bouncing about the frame.

Must confess, I had long forgotten the name. One sees much street photography that relies on a single formula, Harding's work mixes it up, with content, composition and yes, color, all vying and battling it out for domination, or the creation of some tenuous, dynamic coexistence. It draws you in, excites you and keeps you interested. Most of this work was done in decades past, but Analog Days is a joy to look at anytime! Last year I was anxiously awaiting to fall in absolute love with an upcoming book on street photography- it just didn't happen the way I imagined...

Photo: John Harding

Thursday, March 22, 2012

What's Wrong With Teachers!?!

Paperwork up, class size up, homeless students up, students with emotional or behavioral issues up, range of academic levels within same class up... And, of course, level of blame on teachers- way, way up!

Let's be frank- there's plenty of blame to go around. There are still teachers out there who are ineffective at best, but a profession where salaries can often result in second jobs, where resources and expenditures are cut each and every year neither attracts nor inspires prospective professionals, or their students. Teachers deal daily with the after effects of parents who are often at there wits end financially and emotionally, not to mention those who are abusive or have just given up (or left), and have, in turn, passed down and ingrained that attitude, that anxiety, that psychic damage unto their children. Compound all the above with those (inexperienced or wantonly ignorant) individuals and institutions who pass legislation or create situations which prove or accomplish little- other than pressure an already broken system into emphasizing what is least needed (eg- excessive testing) at the expense of all the things which so desperately and obviously need to be done: smaller class sizes, more responsible (and student involved) disciplinary policies, more student and parent counseling, more trade oriented classes, free higher education (we had it till the '70s), and finally, the jobs that kids can actually see in their own neighborhoods to make that dream visible and real- not just empty words and broken promises.

Continue to blame the teachers, blame the unions too (if they had any real power, they would have ended, no- prevented this farce a long, long time ago)! But most of all, let's make sure not to blame ourselves. Let's make sure to blame those already trapped and struggling in what we have all allowed to become a purposely overburdened and underfunded system- and continue to undermine our nation's future as we do so!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Interrogations- Donald Weber


Donald Weber: Interrogations

Saw this book and knew I would have to purchase it. Ironically, both the book (in format and construction) and the photographs within are equal parts crude and "beautiful," if the latter can be applied to such subject matter- which almost appears contrived, set up, actors rehearsing their parts. Of course, such is far from the case.

Portraiture has always been a seductive, complicated dance between subject and photographer, one which places the former in a somewhat vulnerable, compromising situation- sometimes suspicious of the ambitions of the photographer, and always unknowing as to the final result. Even when the dance is fully collaborative, it's the photographer that has the last word on how the end result will be seen, portrayed, even interpreted. So we must ask ourselves why those in the position found in Interrogations would ever consent to have their picture taken (the vast majority did not). Why would people already feeling as vulnerable as possible subject themselves to a process which could only cause further apprehension, even humiliation? Perhaps they thought having their picture taken by a foreign journalist would actually afford them some measure of protection, at minimum provide evidence of their existence and location before they disappeared into a vast bureaucratic penal system never to be heard from again? Perhaps it was the mere opportunity that rarely presented itself in their bleak if far from ordinary lives? I guess we'll never know.

I suppose some would argue that we already know that what is depicted here, and worse, occurs across the world, and that the photographs are therefore somewhat superfluous. But without ready access to direct evidence, we are forever allowed the luxury of abstraction, and worse yet- denial. Work such as this deprives us the opportunity to conveniently look away. 

More on Interrogations, here, here, and here...

Monday, March 19, 2012

Remember The Name...

 Trayvon Martin.

Which Conservative organization, which hypocritical Right Wing blowhard will demand justice when it comes to this ultimate violation of anyone's Constitutional Rights? FOX, The Tea Party? Limbaugh? Meanwhile, 13yr. old Austin McLendon's asking the questions we all should...



Sunday, March 18, 2012

License To Lie


It's... curious hearing NPR prostrate, humiliate and flagellate themselves publicly as they apologize for the This American Life episode on Foxconn that took a few shortcuts towards "the truth." Curious because they did the right thing; curious because whenever The Right gets caught purposely distorting, perverting or inventing their facts whole cloth- they simply tell us to live with it, or go fuck ourselves. Their main mouthpiece at FOX doesn't ever have to apologize because they have full license to lie to each and every American, each and every day- legally, openly and with full US judicial sanction and approval!

And more sadly, because the people who watch and support them want to be lied to...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Somehow, I Kinda Doubt It...

Has the killer of sixteen innocent Afghani men, women and children been placed in solitary and subjected to the same torture inflicted on Bradley Manning?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Why? Why? Why?

Was it Dundee or Ali, who said, "Always go for the head, and the rest will follow." A learned colleague justifiably asked what manner of folly I subscribed to in writing up my Anti-Apple Petition. Why Apple, why now? Well... Apple is that giant head, one of 'em anyway- besides, the very thought of Steve Jobs has always made me cringe (and according to his bio- most anyone who ever met him). A little pressure on any of these thoughtless bastards who try and squeeze every last life affirming penny from the masses they so utterly hold in complete contempt is, well... a good thing.

When I was still living in NYC, I switched from Citibank to another- after Citi fired its entire custodial staff so they could save themselves a few measly bucks (mid '90s). The very next day I read that the bank I switched to was run by the Russian mob....

No, ya can't win, but every once in a while I feel like swinging at those windmills- yeah, just to let 'em know I'm there, if anything. The last time I tried something like this (via my blog), namely, to get fellow photographers to boycott Amazon (wow, talk-about-folly)- ya coulda heard crickets on that one! 

Anyway, I've reached out to the Asian community on this, and hopefully, someone of Chinese descent with some experience in this debacle will write in and set me straight....

PS- There's something, I don't know- just slightly... post modern? (can't quite put my finger on it, but let's give credit where credit is due) about a company putting up nets to catch the very people they're wantonly pushing off the cliff!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Risking It All...

Beautiful Souls they are- throughout history, throughout social class and setting! They serve to warn us when all others look away for fear or greed- and sometimes even save us... punished in turn for their effort: socially, financially, or worse.

A Brief History...

...Of African Stereotypes- John Edwin Mason breaks it down for us step by step- the myths, the stereotypes, the long forgotten and deeply buried truths that pervade history well into the present. And the promise of more to come!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Real Problem/Lousy Solution

And hilariously parodied.
PS- Apparently they don't stay very sticky, very long in real life...

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Hero Fallen

“I’ll just ask the fundamental question,” Ritter said, looking at me squarely across the table. “My personal missteps — how many Americans have died as a result of that? None. Other than my family, how many victims were there? None. And yet, in refusing to engage in a responsible debate about Iraq, how many Americans died? Thousands. And America seems to have no problem with that.” 

Those are the words of Scot Ritter, former Marine, UN weapons inspector, and one of the most important, and informed, voices against the war in Iraq, before it ever began. Unfortunately, he's also someone with his own personal demons- demons that he has somehow either failed to take seriously, or just chosen to ignore... not unlike the vast majority of the American public's attitude towards not invading Iraq.

I'm not belittling Mr. Ritter's problem by any means- the guy needs some serious help. He needs to be as uncompromising with himself, as he is with others. Both the United States and Mr. Ritter are now paying the price, although they continue to live in a fog of deniability, admitting only limited wrong doing at best. But one is hard pressed to escape the logic, and the very sad reality, of the latter part of the statement above. 

Illustration by Shawn Kuruneru. Illustration based on a photograph by Mike Groll/Associated Press.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Mortram On A Mission!


Photo: Jim Mortram

I tend to bitch and complain a bit, somewhat, a lot- and most of the times it's about things "somewhat" beyond my control: racism, war, political persecution. Other times, most often when it concerns me, it can be complaining for complaining's sakes- even if rooted in something fairly reasonable. 

I mention this because here's a guy who hell and high water ain't stopping, a guy who's making photographs best he can, when he can- hell, he didn't even own his own camera until recently (if Nikon should throw anyone a camera)! Jim Mortram aint got time for bitchin', hardly has time for shooting- but oh, what images he does make when he can!

If you haven't caught him over at Duckrabbit, catch him at his website...

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Dreaming The Nikon Fantasy...



So Nikon heard that I've been a tres loyal user for some 35 years (Nikkormat, FM, F2, F3, FG, F100), heard that I'm still living a primitive, analogue lifestyle, and in a moment of sheer marketing genius decided to throw me a brand spankin' new D800. Throw the ol' dog a lifeline into the digital 21st. century- and watch the sparks fly as he raves about the never dreamed of image quality, the superb clarity of resolution, the intuitive ease of operation. Even illustrate an upcoming campaign with a few of his best shots. If this absolute Luddite swears buy it- who in their right mind wouldn't? An instant, win-win, guaranteed publicity bonanza!!! And I'm waiting by the phone...

Still waiting...

Saturday, March 3, 2012

How To Make A Movie...

An absolutely amazing read about how the film Roger And Me got made, written by none other than Michael Moore himself. Fascinating, if only for how someone who never made a movie in his life got to make one of the more memorable, relevant ones...

Friday, March 2, 2012

Redemption Song

OK, like Yahoo, I too got suckered into that 1% tip shit- so here's the "long awaited" redemption story.
(via Welcome Back To Pottersville)

Of course, the main point of contention here is-- why aren't the myriad of stories like this not major news items? People in expensive suits rob us of hundreds of millions each and every damn day, and for some reason, the only people we ever see in a perp walk time and time again are the nickel and dimers wearing hoodies and sneakers...

This is the reality we live in...
(via Tywkiwdbi)