Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ruminations At Year's End...

Photo © S. Banos

If I ever get the time, energy and focus to scan and edit sixty of so silver negs to make a book of my:  a) greatest hits,  b) sign related images,  c) pictures taken on daily constitutionals- this will probably be the title and cover photo. Can't possibly get any better at ultimate lifetime statements. Or maybe just the lead photo, been actually fancying photoless covers of late. It's a helluva lot more convenient doing post on a computer screen, but a whole lotta work nonetheless as I'm repeatedly reminded when doing submission scans.


Last weekend a large, hysterically amped up female came blundering down a San Franciscan hill, yelling and screaming in my general direction. When she got within twenty feet of me she stopped, and after panting a few rounds to regain her breath, lunged towards me threatening to smash my *@#!! camera. "You can't take my picture, it's against the *@#!! law. Give me the *@#!! camera, I'm gonna smash it right now!" Oh, so that's what she was screaming.

Holding my camera at arm's length beyond her reach, I considered my options, all the time quite amused by the extensive "legal knowledge" this obviously law abiding individual had at her possession. I had just had a fairly productive afternoon snapping a few possibilities here and there in the Tenderloin, enough to earn myself a beer on my return, and was feeling rather contemplative and mellow a coupla blocks from home. Analyzing and deciphering the fine legalities of photographing in public were not going to persevere here, and fortunately, I didn't feel particularly threatened. I definitely had the reflexes to flee, and if push came to shove I had the confidence to take her despite her obvious weight advantage. Still, should she latch on- it would definitely turn ugly fast, and I just wasn't in the mood to risk getting scratched, gouged, bitten, etc.

Yelling back (my first reaction, just to send the message I wasn't gonna fold under her aural onslaught) was definitely gonna get it on, so I tried the more diplomatic approach. "I wasn't taking a picture of you, my camera wasn't even pointed at you!" It got the expected response- more cussing and threats, but it effectively took it down a notch. Actually, this episode was very much a repeat- I had gone through a very similar episode with a parent in a classroom once who came in (it quickly dawned on me) with the express intent of fighting me- incite your opponent with verbal mayhem, and then.... That time the Vice Principal saved the day (one split second before I had decided to make the first move) by calling me out of the classroom saying I was "needed elsewhere," this time I knew to say my peace, and keep walking. Guess, that was the point all along...


Finally, sad to see Lenscratch jettison the commentary section- doesn't exactly further conversation and the free exchange of ideas, does it? I can understand why if you have a popular blog; it's extra work, but then- it is one of the very purposes of a blog. As for the inevitable assholes, prohibit Anonymous commenters (why would anyone have to comment anonymously on a photography blog anyway?) and spam the rest. But then, blogs are more and more passe with each and every year I suppose. Regardless, I'm not about to do Face time (talk about old news), and I don't fancy commenting in Haiku via Twitter. So... we'll see how it goes another year, or not...


Oh, and on the international front... Japan Solves Chronic Unemployment/Homelessness!

 Happy New Year!!!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

3 Films To Catch @ Year's End...

Although I've yet to see American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street, I have seen three, rather good, rather small films that I can definitely recommend. Don't think their available for rental just quite yet, so keep an eye out...

Dallas Buyer's Club traces the very abrupt journey of a hard core, Texan homophobe's transformation into an AIDS's fighting activist (when he contracts the disease himself in the '80s).

Can't help but think back to The Deer Hunter (one of the most over rated pieces of crap ever created) when viewing Out Of The Furnace; it's set in an nearly identical albeit updated backdrop. But I like the slow, deliberate pace of this film (one can almost feel the humidity of the hot summer sun on your skin)- in contrast to Woody Harrelson's intense and truly intimidating White Trash, villain extraordinaire (worth the price of admission alone).

And finally there's Philomena, an interesting journey back into the Catholic guilt, abuse and denial of Ireland's past, and it's legacy into the present.

Friday, December 27, 2013

New Pro-Photo Low?

Child abuse, child labor, child endangerment...

Reuters- at least take some measure of acknowledgement and responsibility...

Please sign.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Best Of Times, The...

Been looking back, and it's been quite the year! And as I prepare a few scans for my very first rejection of the brand new year (hope springs eternal), I took some time to look over my favorite books of 2013. Fortunately, there are so many goddamn photography books being made now, self published and otherwise- many of them ridiculously good! But unless you're someway, somehow one of the blessed few, most are well out of our physical/geographical reach (unless ya got the bucks)- otherwise, one must settle for occasional glimpses on these here internets. 

Have you seen... well, uh, I, yeah, saw bits and pieces of lo res reproductions online, and read the reviews. It's uh... really, really good, so I am led to believe...

I was however, lucky to obtain the following:
  1. Orchard Beach by Wayne Lawrence- just got it for Christmas, and it's even better than I expected, why this guy's name isn't an automatic mention when photographic portraitists of this century are discussed is... well, don't get me started.
  2. She Dances on Jackson by Vanessa Winship- America The Great, the grand decline in all its B&W melancholy.
  3. The Landscape Of Murder by Antonio Olmos- on order, and can't wait...
  4. Time And Space On The Lower East Side by Brian Rose- truth be told, haven't been able to shell out the buckaroos for this one, quite as of yet...

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Techno Update... X2

Well, hardly- more like a poor, Luddite's fancies...

I really love those iPad Minis- have absolutely no practical use for them, but really do love the things. They are one sleek, light, lovely designed, super piece of technology I've been long time jonesin' for. It's just such a cool goddang toy!!! And so goddamn expensive. Actually, they would come in super handy when traveling, but since I no longer have the $$$ to travel, particularly overseas... like I said- really have no real need of one. None.

But what if I could get me something approximate for considerably less (kinda like what I've been doing with photo equipment for the last few decades)? I've had my eye on 7in tablets for some time, but even the new Nexus 7 costs over two, with cheaper ones all pretty much crap. Then along comes my ASUS 7 for well under $150 (actually, it's at $150 now, check after Xmas sales) with its remarkably positive reviews. I understand it's not tops for 'gaming,' but I've never gamed in my life and don't intend on starting now. It's fine for email, web surfing, storing a few photos (yeah, I took that) to impress strangers at foreign wi-fi cafes while I sip imaginary wine and cappuccinos on my imaginary travels- and it looks just fine, thank you! And did I mention the price, yes-I-did!

And here's something everyone can appreciate- if you write, that is... with a pen, that is. That's right, the manual (digital?) application of ink to paper. I'm talking the PaperMate Profile 1.4B! This little cheapo ballpoint is one absolute, writing pleasure! This little plastic wonder operates WAY ABOVE its price scale in terms of performance, comfort and pure writing pleasure... one SMOOTH customer! Grab a few dozen before they realize they're making something so damn good for so damn cheap... They even got little plastic nibs on the ballpoint you must first remove- classy!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Republican Road To Riches...

Ever hear of the TPP? Neither did I. Listen to David Cay Johnston as he explains and reveals just some of the reasons we continue to get robbed, pillaged and raped by our Rich, Republican Overseers...

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Photo Of The Year/Hypocrite Of Many

Need a little irony writ large for that end of year boost?

 Here's the perfect ticket- a full color panoramic poster of the Wall St. Occupy movement currently for sale (only $42.75), at- yes, are you ready...
WALMART! Where America sells its soul!!!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Photo © S. Banos

The Holiday Season is a joyous, celebratory time of year! And a time of absolute stress and tribulation. So don't be surprised should ya end up on all fours, wonderin' how ya got there... (w/o a drink to show for it).

Monday, December 16, 2013

Sixty Minutes (Of Fluff)

Gen. Keith Alexander: "There was nobody willfully or knowingly trying to break the law."

SO sayeth the general of his NSA, to which the great John Miller responds by saying... nothing, not-one-word. And we're supposed to take that seriously, as if we're grown adults not insulting each other's intelligence. Really Keith? Really John? I mean, if anything was the greatest spit take line of all time, created by god himself- that had to be it... So this is the pinnacle of "investigative" journalism on American TV?

Wasn't there some kerfuffle recently about not getting the facts straight? I guess the antidote is a series of fluff pieces, first on Amazon (w/o 1 word on worker cond), now the NSA.

Gen. Keith Alexander: "I think people have to be held accountable for their actions."          HA!

So should CBS.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Onset Of "Affluenza"

It's hard for me to even admit this, but growing up a rich spoiled brat with uncaring parents is almost (almost) as bad as growing up dirt poor under same said parents- of course, the key here is the latter; absent, abusive or uncaring parents create the ideal breeding ground for tomorrow's sociopaths. Being rich provides an opportunity to be exposed to alternatives, but without that parental love and guidance, those are usually wasted opportunities. What's needed for these "AFFLUENZA" sufferers however is an immediate crash diet of reality writ large.* Not just another slap on the wrist- isn't that what White folk always prescribe Blacks and Hispanics?

* along with the necessary therapy that should be available and mandatory to either side.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Antonio Olmos- The Landscape Of Murder

Photo: Antonio Olmos

Of course, everything has been done and there is nothing new to photograph anymore. And that's fairly true... 99.99% of the time. And the following is definitely not the exception to the rule- I can name at least three other instances in which similar work has been done, each of them brilliant in their own right... as-is-this!  I've posted on Eva Leitolf's moving and eloquent work quite a few times, Joel Sternfeld's similar interpretation with On This Site, and then there's the photographer (whose name I don't recall) that did wide angle, B&W pinhole photographs of places where people were murdered back in the early '80s (a truly eerie essay of commonplace imagery). I've also seen a variety of series done on roadside descansos which have ranged from fairly impressive to mostly readily forgettable.

Interactive Map of Murder Sites
What this particular project does show is what a little (make that a lot of) imagination can do applied to the very simplest of premises, even those that have already been done (and done well). For most photographers it's hard enough to properly photograph what is clearly there before them, all the photographers mentioned here also had to effectively cope with photographing... what's not there! Antonio Olmos is a professional photojournalist, one who (like everyone else) is constantly seeking out new ideas and projects. Honestly, I wasn't expecting much upon first viewing, maybe a couple of good shots among a cast of supporting mediocrities; what I got instead was a series of solid images with hardly a weak link amongst them- moving, compelling images that draw you in with their composition, lighting and stirring emotional impact. This is brilliant work, both in concept and execution!

Most documentary projects are just that, falling well short of any artistic pretense, the converse can also be true- the most highly touted documentary projects can offer such beautifully aestheticized images that the subject matter takes second place, almost to the point of exclusion (think Salgado, Koudelka, etc). Neither is the case here, as beautiful (even 'serene') as so many of these photographs are, one never loses sight of what they are documenting; instead, their inherent beauty helps draw attention towards emphasizing the content. This is what the best photodocumentary does- publicize, depict and explain to an ill informed public the nature of the subject, its causes, and its consequent aftermath(s)... and do so in a unique, informative and visually compelling manner.

        The Landscape of Murder is one very late and very welcomed addition to this year's must get, must have photo book list.

Photo: Antonio Olmos

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Meritocracy Of It All!

"Never before in the history of photography have so many bad photographs been taken so well."

That was written in the NY Times in the mid-nineties (don't remember the author)- that's right, long before digital became the official coin of the realm. And this is more comment than rebuttal to what Joerg Colberg wrote, my two cents to his well thought out four or five. First, the easy part- I do take exception to what he said about Vivian Maier, and I think that is, at least, in part because of his overall dismissal of so called street photography. Vivian had her style down and in motion by the time Arbus and Winogrand et al started to gather the wind at their sails. And could deservedly be included in the pantheon of contemporaries, incl: Frank, Callahan, Klein and uh... a coupla French guys. FWIW- I think her work to be both substantial and significant; her story is great because of the depth and breadth of her work- no substance, no story.

There is also no doubt that we are flooded with photographic images, more than ever, even without Facebook or Instagram (sorry Mr. Campbell). I don't use either, but the torrent is real and deep, as well as fast and furious. It's a never ending flood, one that is renewed and engorged each and every day. No, not all these photographs are meant to seriously compete with the best and the finest, or even each other, but they take their sensory toll nonetheless. It was hyperinflation in The Weimar Republic no matter what you were trying to buy, and everyone suffered as a result. In the predigital days, there were fewer photographers, fewer photographs, fewer outlets. One had the luxury of time to: discover, analyze, critique and savor; hell, we even had to wait for our images to... develop! We are no longer afforded that most crucial of judicial elements, and it makes any discussion of artistic value or merit all the harder- if not impossible.  

As to how to evaluate merit, well, good luck with that. It's like trying to standardize fender heights on cars- it aint gonna happen. Nor should it. It's what separates ART from science, there are no hard and fast rules. There are always those who have some semblance of what they're talking about amongst the babbling minions, except now there's more of both (or at least the latter)- no great surprise there, or that the better ones get drowned out. More choices, more voices, more outlets, right and wrong. One thing's for sure, the curators and gallerists continue to pick and choose and make the big bucks and careers. Their big monied role has remained essentially unscathed and undiminished throughout. I don't hear them complaining much- or is that because my world is so far removed from theirs?

That's not to say that I don't want to be enlightened, or at least occasionally surprised, we should all be so lucky. But to quote that great (and oh so entirely useless!) twenty first century, philosophical axiom... "It is what it is." We should be talking about this, we need to talk about this- it is both a pragmatic and worthy endeavor, particularly for the yung-uns. To the disappointment of no one, I'd rather refrain from chasing the ever elusive Unified Field Theory of Photographic Merit, and use the precious time remaining to take a picture or two, whether anyone looks or not...

Zazzle Frazzle

I recently gave a rather positive report on Zazzle and their card printing service. On 11/29, I spoke to them via phone concerning the emailed photographic evidence they requested and returned their defective cards- well, it's12/09... and I still have yet to receive my reprint order! In fact, after speaking to them again, it became quite apparent that they have yet to even print it!!! So in short- ZAZZLE SUCKS!--- and apologies for leading anyone astray...

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Two Dancers Dreaming

David Gonzalez, Dancers Mott Haven, 1979

I am in absolute love with this photograph. I have witnessed the dance countless times, from the sidewalks and boroughs of New York to the warm, blue Caribbean waters of its birth. I know the moves, the rhythms, the music that draws and compels this couple together. Life celebrated, and life lost. 

The steps are second nature, executed with the utmost finesse. The dancer would never betray the dance, but it is routine now, the passion dissipated.  She's done it too many times, under too many promises; so she exhibits her grace, displays her charm, but she no longer dreams. 

While he... He cannot help but dream. He clutches intensely as the rhythm takes hold; it pervades his body, rejuvenates his desire. Gone is the life that has thrown him about, the people that he has deserted, and that have deserted him. Now he will match her every step and challenge her to make good on the best she still offers. Two people dancing the rhythm of life in a street neither could escape, the dance now all that's left of dreams. 

Two dreamers dancing, two dancers dreaming...

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Brentwaters-Rendlesham Incident

Why would the US government deny a dying Vet his medical records- even when none other than Senator John McCain has requested them on his behalf!?!? This interview is only good for the week, and that is, only if you can get past Whitley Strieber's histrionics. The Brentwaters-Rendlesham Forest UFO Incident at a joint US-RAF Air Force Base however was very real (also see here and here). And of course, there is a 'logical explanation' for it involving a light house (that moves from place to place) or the guy flashing his car lights, or...

Friday, December 6, 2013

Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika

There are anthems, and then there are anthems. Some are moving, all are patriotic- but none stirs the very soul, none disturbs it, and none ultimately soothes as South Africa's. None...


Thursday, December 5, 2013


The Sisters Wood, Sandy and Lisa, at... The Woods

The Woods is the the name of the newly opened joint venture by the sisters Wood, Lisa and Sandy, the former (in the interest of full disclosure) being my wife- often referred to here simply as... "The Wife." And needless to say, I'm very proud of what she  they have created and cobbled together here for public consumption, almost as much museum as it is store- like some off kilter science project set in a distorted universe a full century back in time.

This Friday 12/06 at 6PM marks their official, gala opening and celebration. So please drop by if in the neighborhood. The store features everything from her ornate, original and antiquated jewelry to a plethora of various collections and whimsical insect dioramas- an impressive gamut of Victorian oddities: animals and nature, cards and books, flora and fauna, the bizarre and the humorous. It also features a world famous book, B&W photograph and Christmas card for sale. Located at 3248 16 St. (between Delores and Guerrero); hope to see ya's there...

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The One That Got Away... Almost

"Tania Head" and Friends
David Handschuh/N.Y. Daily News via Getty Images

I can't believe I totally missed this! Didn't have the slightest. So it came as somewhat of a double whammy deluxe that something so blatantly, and totally outlandish flew right by my radar without my slightest notice. Someone, something that makes the likes of Rosie Ruiz seem like the rank amateur that she was...

Poor ol' Rosie couldn't pull her scam off for more than a coupla days at best- Tania Head kept at it for six long years! And unlike hapless Rosie- Tania wasn't present for any part of the event, just fabricated each and every bit of lie upon lie whole cloth, from thousands of miles away...

The Woman Who Wasn't There is far from a great documentary, but it is one deceptively good story about one deceptively good con that fills you with an unsettling queasiness as you witness the 'rise' and fall of someone so desperate to fill some underlying and overbearingly huge need to belong... at any cost.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Christmas Card of the Year!!!

The following is blatant, in your face, commercial exploitation...

Not quite the calendar I've yet to make, but a step in the right direction; and must say, I'm rather quite pleased by it! You can make your own cards (and other stuff) quite easily at Zazzle, or better yet, buy mine so that I can continue to live my decadent bourgeois lifestyle while doubling down my commitment to... The War on Christmas!

Photo © S. Banos

Unfortunately, my card printed with a bit of a light streak on one side- Zazzle offered to reprint and pay return postage on their dime (as well they should)- their customer service was both quick and commendable...      UPDATE!