Saturday, November 30, 2013

Two Of Three For Christmas

The two things I want for this Christmas are Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher, The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis by Timothy Egan, and Orchard Beach: The Bronx Riviera by Wayne Lawrence. I'll abstain from placing World Peace on my list this year, since if we ever do achieve that in my lifetime, it will sadly and no doubt come in the form of a somewhat troubled basketball player.

Anxious to read how Edward C. Curtis managed to pursue his life long obsession despite the many obstacles thrown his way, not least of which was the American Indians initial reluctance to his photographic advances, before ultimately completing his self imposed, photographic opus- only to die penniless... Where have we heard that before? Have also been dying to get that most beautiful (if sometimes bizarre) collection of portraits by Wayne Lawrence celebrating the varying colors of the rainbow coalition of humanity that populates Orchard Beach.

Photo: Wayne Lawrence

Friday, November 29, 2013

Almost Home!

Marissa Alexander has finally been released from prison; and although now under house arrest, it's the first step in something to be thankful for.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Business of Incarceration

Quick- What's the best way to get those suspicious looking brown and black malcontents off the streets and give some down on their luck, unemployed white folk a career (talk about Win-Win)?

"The United States has less than 5 percent of the world's population. But it has almost a quarter of the world's prisoners."   --Adam Liptak, NY Times

Life w/o possibility of parole for stealing a $159 dollar jacket? But wait- there's more...

Still have doubts? Get the facts...

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Assassination Here, Assassination There...

I've currently come to believe that Lee Harvey Oswald did probably shoot and kill JFK, the Nova study plus several others make a fairly strong case- and there has been no other real evidence, save for speculation, concerning other shooters. There are experts who say he was certainly a good enough shooter, others that say he was nowhere close, even if his crap rifle was up to the job. Either way, it certainly doesn't mean that there wasn't a slew of sinister forces that supported, and then abandoned him. And speaking of sinister forces- even MLK's family profess that James Earl Ray did not kill the famed civil rights leader.

Back in the '70s or '80s I was listening to a radio program on the RFK assassination in which they played the most remarkable of tapes, a tape that to this day I can't believe was somehow made public. The tape is over an hour long and features LAPD Sgt. Hernandez (who allegedly had CIA connections) basically browbeating a female witness into saying the story he wants her to say and believe. I could not find the entire tape, but did mange to locate a video with important excerpts in which you can hear her interrogator (again, you can hear for yourself this is an interrogation, not an interview): bully, plead, demand, and coerce- all the time attempting to both identify with and shame Sandra Serrano into changing her story into his. At first she is adamant, indeed defiant, about what she saw- but gradually over time, he eventually starts to wear her down until she finally (finally) realizes she ain't going nowhere until she converts to his exact version of what he says happened. At the end you can hear the utter exasperation in her voice. It is not dissimilar to what NYPD did years later with The Central Park Five. Interestingly, LAPD Officer Paul Sharaga corroborated her story, and LAPD later stated that he recanted his report. Mr. Sharaga to this day denies it.  
(listen to Parts 2 & 3 on You Tube)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Dr. Richard Haines- Another UFO 'Whacko'

Who just happens to be a retired NASA research scientist.

"From a science point of view, I just cannot ignore the data."

Speaking of scientists who dare to go where no scientist has gone before... Dr. Rupert Sheldrake.

And last, and certainly not least- one of the most well researched compilations on some of the all time best documented cases.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Pick Your Poison- Gilden vs. Stanton

Photo: Bruce Gilden
Bruce Gilden is one of my 'guilty' pleasures- everyone deserves a few. Devoid of any ethics (he'll be the first to tell ya), he has no qualms depicting his fellow human beings as something approximating the humanoids of the classic Twilight Zone episode where grotesqueness was the norm, and conventional human beauty, abhorrent. Sometimes I wonder if he'd have photographed his own mother like that, or perhaps the question should be- would mom let him near her with a camera?

And in the corner directly opposite, we have the likes of Brandon Stanton of HONY fame and fortune. He takes very complimentary portraits, photos that his subjects would be proud and happy to show anyone- including their mothers.

Two very different approaches, two widely disparate aesthetics; one has a small, almost cult like following, the other, a practically unprecedented, massive, worldwide appeal. I've been a long time Gilden fan since I first remember him honing his craft on 5th the early Eighties. So how would I justify his New York cast of characters, or perhaps more appropriately, caricaturizations- not to mention his abrupt, no apology, in your face brand of hit and run photography?

Photo: Brandon Stanton
I can't. All I do know is that I love his work- on a gut level, aesthetic level, hell- just about any damn level you can throw my way. As a New Yorker whose walked those very streets, it may be surprising to hear that it is not as easy as one may think to effectively portray in a simple photograph every which way those streets can wear you down, tear you down, each and every day, one little piece atta time until, until... you end up looking like something in a Gilden portrait. And even if ya don't, ya damn well feel it! That is, in fact, how Gilden succeeds- using his photography on a descriptive literary level, every bit as any novelist would in depicting the angst and depersonalization so prevalent in New York, or any large metropolitan area. 

Unlike a novelist, however, Gilden uses real, identifiable people in the portrayal of his often zombie like vision of urban dread. Does the end justify the means? I'm not a big fan of that credo, particularly since it is often the excuse that leads to even more egregious debacles. And so I call on my major trump card, the infamous, no holds barred and don't ask me to explain any further (because I damn well can't) Every Dog Has Its Day card. And in Gilden's case (like so many others too numerous to mention)- the end does justify the means. His New York is the New York I so often felt coursing through my veins as I walked those very streets- and my hat off to him for capturing it in such a remarkably mesmerizing way, for art and posterity. As Gilden most accurately points out, traditional New York archetypes are fast disappearing- everyone everywhere is starting to look more and more the same.

Brandon Stanton lives in a different reality, and a different New York. Perhaps because he's not a native, perhaps because he's an optimist- I don't know. His legions of fans state that the stories that he elicits from his subjects are the real strength of his work.* In all fairness, they are- I just don't have the stomach to get past his feel good portraits. PS- How can you tell the really weird people in New York? Easy- they walk around... smiling.

Perhaps one day Mr. Stanton will compile his individual stories into a compelling film documentary where we get to know a few of his subjects on a personal level beyond mere anecdotes, perhaps that is, in fact, where his work is eventually leading him. I would be interested in seeing that. Right now, there is nothing in his photography (at least) that I find visually compelling- as opposed to the plethora of stories my imagination immediately conjures upon viewing a single Gilden image.

Bruce Gilden's latest tightly cropped portraits are devoid of any background relevant to subject or locale. Are they exploitative? Don't know how you could claim otherwise. What's the ethical justification for their raison d'ĂȘtre? Hell, I'm still gobsmacked just looking at 'em...

* I've said this before, one of the best photo exhibits I've ever seen was a series of small, nondescript B&W snapshots of 'Bowery bums' (taken in the '70s). Beside each portrait, typed on standard 3X5 index cards was the story of how each individual ended up there- Truly Powerful Stuff...

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Monday, November 11, 2013


Photo © S. Banos

Guys- ever have one of those days when you leave the house and ya just know ya forgot something, but damn if ya know what the hell it is, or was, or... Then all of a sudden, Hold Everything- it hits ya like a thunderbolt right upside the head! Yeah, you know what I'm talking about.

Conservative Christianity

Starts @ 2:48.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

12 Years A Slave

I almost feel that to speak of this film only cheapens it, for nothing within it is wasted, and anything I would have to say could never pay it justice. Every scene, every moment is used to full potential, even the air hangs heavy, with you in its presence. Director Steve McQueen has resurrected the evil insanity upon which an entire nation was created, whose legacy we continue to deny to this very day.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Butt, Butt, Butt...

You're gonna have to try really, Really, REALLY hard to top this in terms of absolute insanity ad absurdum...

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Beautiful San Francisco!

I currently reside in San Francisco, one of the most beautiful (and expensive, along with New York) cities in these United States. Right now construction throughout the city is progressing at record levels; they are building an entirely new addition to the city in the waterfront area by AT&T Park (where the SF Giants play). And in the midst of this construction boom, the homeless population is... skyrocketing! Young, old, black, white and everything in between- including many newly homeless families.

As someone who struggles to meet rent each and every month, it seems an overwhelmingly impossible problem to even ponder, let alone solve. Of course, a small portion of all that new housing would be a nice start, along with the necessary mental health, social and employment services, etc. But we are no longer concerned with caring for those that Jesus dedicated his life to- despite  the consistent claims of being a majority Christian nation. In fact, everything we do as a country, a government, a society seems hell bent on increasing the schism between the haves and have-nots, and in so doing keep everyone in place for fear of joining the ever expanding ranks of the latter.

San Francisco, Photo: S. Banos

Meanwhile, NYC has finally (finally!) rid itself of would be King Bloomberg who departs the island in a hail of self congratulatory praise and adulation, reciting his own faked accomplishments in the name of legacy.

Yet a report issued by one of his own agencies, the Center for Economic Opportunity, revealed that by the end of 2011 more than a fifth of New Yorkers were living below the poverty line and another quarter just above it. These figures will rise, the report added, especially if federal spending declines, as expected.
This spring, the Fiscal Policy Institute, a progressive nonprofit research organization, issued an even grimmer report, concluding that there has been “no meaningful reduction in poverty” in the city in thirty years.       --Ken Auletta

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Apostasy- Jonathan Auch

Photo: Jonathan Auch
As much as I enjoy and encourage the new found interest and participation in "street photography," it also has brought about (quite predictably) a plethora of second and third rate imitations of imitations that can leave a rather vile taste in one's mouth for the entire genre. Yes, anyone with a half decent camera (or less) and a city street with (and sometimes even without) people can play- but like any other 'game,' it sure doesn't insure you're gonna be any good at it. I've been playing my particular version for a few decades and have amassed precious few baubles for the effort.

I've written on Jonathan Auch before, one of the better young street shooters out there now, and that's not to say that I like everything he shoots, or how he shoots it. But I respect the way he continues to push, question, explore; and unlike countless others shooting countless approximations of what they've already seen and somehow hope to recreate, Johnathan has the accomplished eye and reflexes to make striking images come true- and just as amazingly, has the ability to adapt to the subject matter at hand through a variety of styles! One can clearly see glimpses of Gilden, Ackerman, Levenstein and the whole history of street photography reverberating throughout...

A prodigious shooter, it's a joy to see his work continue to branch out and evolve- Jonathan will have his first one man show, Apostasy, on 11/06!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Black and White Photography

A month back I came upon the photo above, an even more dramatic depiction of what would have, could have happened below, if it wasn't for one brave individual named Keshia Thomas.

Photo: Mark Brunner

Both offer such a very stark contrast to the photo(s) below. This is not to say something as simplistic as one side good, one side bad; but it is a stark reminder that the often negative and stereotypical media images of predatory Blacks and minorities in general are not necessarily an accurate reflection of the complexities of how humans of either race interact with each other- to say the very least. Sometimes, the worst of situations can bring about the very best in us, and the most innocuous of occasions give rise to the most insidious.


Friday, November 1, 2013