Thursday, February 27, 2014

In Your Face: Photo Complaints- Part III

I love street photography, I love Mark Cohen and Bruce Gilden, love the "in your face" boldness of their work. But following Capa's Law doesn't mean that shoving a camera in someone's face automatically produces a masterwork. There has to be something more than a mere grimace, a look of disgust and disdain. Unfortunately, too many "street" photographers are going for just that these days- and think they have actually achieved the holy grail. They've got their gritty, hard core street look, while in truth- they don't got jack shit. They've hijacked the surface and totally missed out on... the soul! Street photography has always been about capturing the fleeting nuances that somehow coincide and create a sum larger than its parts in public view, for those astute enough to notice. The magic lies in the subtleties, not the obvious; learn to do it right, or move on...

OK, OK... one has to practice to get there- I know. It just seems that the grimacing street close up has come to replace the deadpan, poke me with a stick, Alec Soth brand of portraiture as photography's number one most overused currency of the day. Basta!

Photo: Alec Soth
Addendum via George LeChat
no close up grimace, and low level deadpan, but point... taken.

Photo: Bruce Gilden

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Photo Complaints: Part II- "The Right To Privacy"

I love photo essays much as the next guy. What I don't like is the attitude that you always have to have multiple examples of like subject matter just to validate the one good photo. Sometimes (sometimes) a photograph has the right to exist on its lonesome, it doesn't want or need friends. Maybe it's not a question of vanity, or the need to hog the limelight, but one of humility- it doesn't feel the need for an entourage, it doesn't need the bling. Or maybe it isn't a team player after all, either way- it's earned the right. It wants to be left alone... Set it free!!!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Honoring Our (Photographic) Roots... Photo Complaints- Part I

One of the things I've never understood about photography is how often many of its most enthusiastic practitioners ignore the very purpose for which it was created- to more readily create, preserve and celebrate a fairly accurate representation of that which was. That very reason is being more and more ignored each day as we relentlessly pursue, peruse... and instantly dismiss that which is "new" at ever more break neck speed- all the while failing to adequately appreciate and understand that which was created just yesterday, let alone last century. I'm constantly amused by photography competitions that not only have age restrictions for the participants, but also state that they'll only accept work created within the year, instead of just asking for work that hasn't been published- as if there's an understood and inherent expiration notice.

Call it vernacular, call it vintage, call it by whatever name you choose- I just call it good photography, period. No matter how, or when it was made; no matter if it's that one lucky amateur shot, or the one fortuitous survivor from a cast forever lost. These three photographs from my wife's Pinterest alone are as good, as beautiful, as complex or mysterious as anything being made today- and then some. Not a name photographer, nor celebrated image amongst them (far as I know); and yet, all deeply moving, deeply imaginative, and deeply worthy of the study, admiration and respect the art and science of photography was created for. In an era that increasingly plunges headlong into digital homogenization, let's take the time and make the effort to appreciate and honor that which has already lived up to the promise- and the magic, that is photography...

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Photo/Blog Drought of '14

In the meantime, check out the wife's Neato Photos on Pinterest...
Things have been running on impulse power these days, photographically and blogwise for that matter. Funny, ever since last October when I had finished taking my "dick pictures," as one reader (Hi, Dave) called them, I came home with the distinct feeling I wouldn't be getting much for a few ... months- and I was right. Been slim pickins since, nothing but an almost here and an almost there week after sordid week. Some people love winter light- I'm not a particularly big fan. Anyway, I finally ended the great drought of  '14 (not anywhere as huge as CA's by the way) by getting a portrait last week which really did me proud (no, not quite as good as the one at left). 

Of course, no telling when the next lucky moment will come- and things haven't been exactly jumping over here either. Seems fairly quiet on the blogosphere all around of late, or maybe it's just me. Usually, something comes just in the nick of time... but it sure has been dragging of late!            

I wish I could say I've been taking this time to make my long overdue web site, alas, such is not the case; but I haven't been completely stagnant, been making some high res scans in the interim. Precious few, mind ya, silver negs are a mother! And I have entered a coupla select items in a coupla select places- my annual penance to the photographic gods (you'd think I would've acquired the necessary indulgences by now).

Actually, there is one thing I'd like to get off my chest right now concerning a few pictures I took back a ways, but I'm holding off on that till the proper time (for good reason), if ever that time comes, which I'm hoping it does- and soon. In the meantime, I don't reckon on going into warp here anytime soon, but the mission continues, just need to hold orbit a spell...

Thursday, February 20, 2014

"Please have no leniency with me."

Said the 80 yr old nun to the judge... Hero(es), plain and simple.
(and truly Christlike).

The unmitigated hypocrisy! Not only should Homeland Security thank them for exposing such obvious lack of security, think of all the banksters who robbed us blind and didn't serve one, single day!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Seventeenth Century Photography

Interesting examination of Vermeer, and the technology he employed in the production of his great art. There is little doubt that he did, in fact, use the optical technology of his day to achieve the results in paintings such as The Music Lesson, the object of this particular documentary. One can even see evidence of chromatic aberration in Woman Reading a Letter (check out the back of her blouse).

In Tim's Vermeer, the inventor Tim Jenison goes through the arduous and painstaking task of first figuring out how Vermeer could have done his lifelike paintings with the aid of such technology (basically- a lens and two mirrors) and then sets about to actually paint its second coming (in 130 days) far better than anyone could have possibly imagined for someone who... had never before painted in his life.

Alas, I know nothing of painting, and despite the evidence (inarguable as it is), there is still far more to this artist and his art than mere smoke and mirrors (nor does the movie claim otherwise)...

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Deep In The Heart Of Texas!

One Texan who can't comprehend why people who want less government in their lives "want government in our bedrooms."

Besides everyone  knows- This is what Real Men do!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

One Year Closer...

Anyone still holding their breath out there? Nevertheless, couldn't help but notice how the internet has been busy digging out ye olde B&W hits galore: Dave Jordano - Alex Webb - Christine Osinski - Bill Yates - Alec Soth - Marin Parr.

Is this but another faux rumbling of the oft prophesied, thoroughly inevitable, yet highly dubious B&W Revival? Or will it take the likes of Finding Vivien Maier to finally ignite the monochromatic clarion call to arms?

I ain't got the slightest. It's kinda like waiting for the inevitable BIG One to occur in Cali for NI A- although that one's pretty much guaranteed... Either way, savor it when it comes, if it comes, for it will most likely consume itself in a brief and furious frenzy of creative zeal and overindulgence that'll send everyone scurrying back into color's warm and fuzzy embrace...

Monday, February 10, 2014


Photo: Robert D'Alessandro

If memory serves, the first photography book I ever bought. Dated, grainy B&W- and boy, does it still look good! Couldn't find a trace of Robert D'Alessandro's Glory anywhere on the internet for years, and then- there it was! Where else...

Friday, February 7, 2014

"Either There Is An America, Or There Isn't"

The following is what should obviously be referred to as... self explanatory.

David Simon on Billionaires and the Demise of the Social Contract from on Vimeo.

When my parents first arrived in NYC in the early fifties, they first settled in SOHO (of all places) which was hardly the chic area of residence then, more industrial than neighborhood. They settled into a cold water flat for fifteen dollars a month, later moving to Brooklyn when the rent was raised to twenty. They arrived unskilled, got low tier manufacturing jobs, and as my father recalled, "You could get fired one morning and get the same job in another place that afternoon."

The point is, you could afford to live on what you made; jobs were plentiful, shelter anything but luxurious- nevertheless affordable, and available. Yes, it was a time when "lift yourself up by the bootstraps" was a reality, not some empty, long dead axiom. Now you have young couples both of whom are working full time (often in addition to P/T) minimum wage jobs vying with recently, and not so recently, unemployed college grads well over fifty- for those same dead end jobs. Now you have corporations paying their workers so little they have to rely on food stamps to survive.

Incredibly, once your average American who wanted to get ahead could attend a City College... tuition free! Now, more than half of college professors constitute (are you ready for this?)- the working poor!   The point is, the bootstraps are long gone. For many Americans, it's no longer about the dream- it's about mere survival. But the so called "job creators" keep insisting that we should get on our knees and thank our lucky stars that they exist and tolerate us, as they give themselves million dollar bonuses, and get multi-million dollar tax payer funding for their personal pet projects while deliriously decrying the wanton excess of raising a long (LONG...) overdue raise in the minimum wage.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Dave Jordano (and Humanist Photography)

Photo: Dave Jordano

Any time I hear the term "humanist" photography, a small part of me kinda cringes. That's because a certain part of that genre consists of feel good, 'positive' photography featuring photographs of the poor, the "disadvantaged," people with disabilities nobly overcoming the myriad of obstacles thrown their way with a great, big, happy smiley face (either actual or implied) conquering all. Chills me to the bone. Living under those conditions is not fun and sometimes damn near impossible. The last thing it makes people feel is 'happy;' even though countless people do confront these hardships each and every day in an incredibly positive manner (smiling or not).

But aren't photos of the same people living in the same conditions with not so happy faces just as cliche? Very much can be. But at the very least they remind us that that suffering is still out there and very much real- and that it is most definitely neither fun nor easy. The smiling faces give us reason to turn away believing that everything is getting better, it's under control; nothing to worry about here folks... when we damn well should know that everything sure as hell ain't- with or without the pictures!

Not all humanist photography goes that direction, the term can be used and abused in any number of ways, and fortunately, the photography can reflect a variety of styles and approaches. There is a need for balance, or better yet, for making sure all sides are told, no matter the imbalance between them.  Dave Jordano works in a very deliberate manner, he doesn't succumb to such easily quixotic formulas, his photographs are truly humanist, and therefore carry considerably more depth and subtlety. One does not easily forget his images.

It's not often that I have witnessed photographic exhibits that just leave me awed and humbled- but this is the first time that I can recall a photographer's work having like effect online. Jordano is a true American master. I started writing this post several weeks ago and fortunately, there have been a torrent of posts concerning Jordano, many of which I have been able to include here. Whether it's his early B&W work from the '70s, or his most recent color work Detroit- Unbroken Down, this is work that one can continually come back to, work that continually teaches, informs and ultimately moves...

PS- Those of you lucky enough to be in the NYC vicinity can catch his work this Feb-March!

Photo: Dave Jordano

Sunday, February 2, 2014

49 Mile Scenic Drive

Just make a left (or not).      Photo: Stan B.

Don't even dream 50!
A map? An actual... route!?! Can only mean there's also an... app (sigh).
The first time I visited San Francisco back in '89, we (Hi, Sharyn!) couldn't help but notice these cryptic 49 Mile Scenic Drive signs that would sporadically appear driving throughout various parts of the city. They would manifest at irregular intervals, point you in general directions that would invariably lead to congested intersections without further notice, and ultimately leave you to your own devices. It very quickly became a running joke, these serene, baby blue signs to nowhere with the stoic seagull that was very purposely shitting all over you should you chance to take him at all seriously. 

Anytime one would inevitably pop up without rhyme or reason, we could once again rest assured that we were indeed headed in the right direction, whatever direction that might be...