Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Costica Acsinte- Photographer Extraordinaire

Photo: Costica Acsinte

The ever evolving digital revolution is constantly innovating and improvising new and unique ways to increase the immediacy and plasticity of the photographic medium. One of the things that has seemingly been lost in the process is what photography has done best since its very inception, the very reason it was created; and no matter how fast we disseminate, publish or transform it- the very power of the camera is to capture the present, and that of the photograph (particularly in print), to preserve the past. Digital and the electronic medium has reduced the relevancy of the latter as we glancingly peruse and readily dismiss more and more photographically produced images which each succeeding day. 
On increasingly rare occasions however, we are ever so rudely and joyously thrown aback and awakened from our digitally induced stupor when images that are so obviously disconnected from the digital time frenzy are suddenly thrust upon us, demanding not only to be seen, but to be fully savored and contemplated. That is exactly what I encountered upon seeing the work of Costica Acsinte, photography not only from another era, but from a whole other way of looking at and appreciating photography at length. These photographs demand the luxury of your time, the great ones always do....

Photo: Costica Acsinte

This guy was one busy bee, and despite his workmanlike approach, he still managed to somehow produce works that range from the quietly monumental to the outright ephemeral. Unfortunately, many of the images have already been ravaged by improper storage and the effects of time- amazingly, some have actually seem enhanced by the surreal effects caused by that damage. There's many a jewel to be mined in this vast collection, and Cezar Popescu is to be both lauded (and supported) for his dogged one man undertaking at preservation.

I hope there'll be a book coming out of this- what I'd really love is an on demand publishing service which would allow you to publish in book form your own personal favorites of your own choosing! Meantime, think I'll just kick back a few days, take my sweet time, and ponder what those favorites are...

Photo: Costica Acsinte

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

And The Digital B&W Photographer Of 2014 Is...

I asked a couple of photographers who have tastes similar to mine when it comes to B&W a very simple question- "Who is doing B&W right these days doing a purely digital workflow?" The answer was a resounding- "Uhhhmmm, uhhhhh... let me get back to ya on that." Eventually, most got back with a scrap or two someone was doing here or there- safe to say that none of the names (new or old) were dedicating their life's work via digital monochrome.

First off, the vast, vast majority of photographers are not regularly shooting B&W of any kind these days. Period. So there's an infinitesimally smaller gene pool to choose from at the get go. And Salgado and the select few who have a multi-(multi) thousand dollar, digital workflow with tech not available to mortal man don't count. Second, we are most definitely not talking about the absolute control and technique freaks who are constantly trying to one up Ansel on the Zone System stairway to heaven. I'm sure if I was to throw the question out there to "the general public," I'd be deluged with an endless array of grand natural vistas done to digital, tonal perfection duplicated ad nauseum...

Particularly interesting is that so many photographers (incl Salgado) are forever trying to make digital look like film. And so the question must be asked... Why? Why this need to disguise the new and improved medium as the something that it replaces? With all that digital offers- why do so many try and disguise it as what it is not?

Perhaps that is why we don't have more photographers working digital monochrome today to the extent that we actually ignite a B&W revival. They can't figure out what's missing...

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Thomas Roma Affair

Interesting post on PetaPixel regarding the photographer of one of my all time favorite photography books (Found In Brooklyn) and his particular brand of teaching, which I was not particularly aware of (until now). It's gotten quite a rise, and bent more than a few outta shape on that site. Seems that Thomas Roma is pretty much your quintessential New Yorker, and then some... 

He is what I consider the truly evolved New Yorker- brash, assertive, argumentative, opinionated- without being: prejudiced, hateful and shortsighted. He can empathize with and relate to the entire spectrum of shades and social strata to be found within that universal megalopolis- and still call out a dick head when he sees one. 

While many of the selected excerpts on the blog in question are pure gold, some can make Mr. Roma come off a bit cartoonish, I'm betting this is but one aspect of his teaching style, an appeal to wake his minions from the deception and repetition that surround us all. And then, of course, there is his work- and there is nothing cartoonish to be found there...

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Sterling and The Snoop

Never thought I would laud the actions of Snoop Dog over those of...  The NAACP!!! While racist Whites would no doubt twist and construe his response as racist, hate speech against the ever oppressed White man, what I particularly admire about it is the succinct, rather restrained and totally appropriate message and delivery- completely honest, forthright and... on task.

Much rarer in public nowadays, are the all out, white foamed harangues associated with the KKK. Whenever most Whites now deliver their racist commentary, it's usually done with cleverly substituted code words and terminology; the epithet laden, emotional vitriol is absent, but the deep down, ill founded hatred still percolates. Snoop's response, as passionate and from the heart as it is, isn't filled with the insane hatred that constitutes the very heart of racism, it isn't a generalized statement condemning an entire group of people- it is a very measured, almost clinical response to the individual racist who inspired it.

Friday, April 25, 2014

“I don’t recognize the United States government as even existing.”

Cliven "USA" Bundy 
Photo: Scott Watson

I'm sure used to seeing the whole "Love it or Leave it" crowd wrap itself within the flag, but for a guy who straight out swears he doesn't even believe in the United States- Cliven Bundy sure does go outta his way to drape himself in the very symbol of what he doesn't believe in one whole heapin' helpful! And, of course, while he rails against "Negroes on government subsidies," he has no problem unlawfully using government assets for personal gain to the tune of several million dollars.

But then, these are the armed, demented morons that the Republican Party has embraced and unleashed upon us all...

Thursday, April 24, 2014

What I Did On Spring Break...

Last time it was "the right to bear arms," this time- corporate takeover of one's home... If it's something I'm passionate about (and a fairly sane site) the Comments section is a venue to sharpen and hone one's viewpoints, facts and debating skills- and in the process, maybe even learn something (and help ward off the oncoming dementia).

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Trials And Tribulations Of On Demand Publishing

Or online publishing, printing, call it what you will... First off, this is is hardly the comprehensive review- in fact, my experience is somewhat limited at best. But I have had a few instances that point to what seems to be a particularly ongoing and universal trend- that is, your first order is done to spec and everything comes out hunky dory. Your next order... call it sophomore luck, call it- we reeled ya in the first time and now you take what we give ya. Gotta problem with that?

Shame really, cause many of these services, when they give two shits, can really produce some quality product. Back in '09, I had a Blurb book made of B&W images and the first order came out no problem- FWIW, I understand their printing and paper quality offerings have increased in the intervening years. The second order of books delivered some oddly cut trapezoidal offerings that looked like the remains of my first hangover. Last year, I had some Christmas cards made by Zazzle; came out great- ordered a bunch more, and a third of them had some very noticeable pink tiger streaks. This year I ordered a small book from Artisan State, and damn it looked great, if I do say so myself! I made the traditional second order and... looks like they did some free of charge and totally unrequested cropping on the images well beyond their own self appointed red border zone! Coincidence??? Believe what you will, but it certainly feels like the going rule of thumb.

Perhaps the pricier publishers with the pricier offerings yield more consistent quality results- one would hope...

Thursday, April 17, 2014


Or how you can go to jail for 47 days for one joint- and not see ONE Single Day for laundering $850 million dollars worth of drug money...                     (And Justice for All...)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Wanted! Wanted! Wanted!

Hard to believe this NY expat has been in this town 3 mayors long- The Honorable Willie Brown (don't know about the title- just goes good with the name), followed by the well heeled (if somewhat tipsy) Mayor Gavin Newsom, leading to our current (I don't really know if I wanna be...) Mayor Ed Lee. 

Three different races, three very different personalities, all beholden by the unifying color of... Green!
Photo © S. Banos

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Photo Week In Review...

1)  We start the week off with yet another rejection notice- am I the only one who thinks getting these were a lot more fun climactic via snail mail?  OK- nothing unusual there...

2)  Then on the third day of working a three hour nightly shift on one tiff, and just before officially calling it a done deal- I notice this one little shadow area that I really... pretty much... hadn't really.... noticed all that much before. I had noticed all the other 53 problem areas that lurked about in this particular wide angle shot- yet there it was... leering at me in full realization that it was completely and thoroughly unfixable and beyond redemption. It only took up about 5% of the entire real estate in said image; would anyone even notice (at least that much)?  Now, of course, it seemed to loom larger than a Jovian moon. 

Naturally, I tried to fix it. I hadn't come this far, spent so many hours, endured and solved so many of it's previous secrets to give up on this last minute pimple of a hiccup of an excuse. So on I went into night four, and slowly, surely, finally- Progress! Validated, exonerated, I triumphantly compared it to my low res scan, and... deleted that four day son of a bitch down the computer wormhole of all things forgotten and never again mentioned.

3)  WOW! Here's something to take anyone's mind off the darkroom hell of the computer monitor- something I've never ever seen offered in my 35+ years of photography--- an offer to participate in a A Flash Powder Workshop! Screw tintypes, glass plates and albumen et al... we're talking Flash Powder Baby- Hooah! Don't know where I'll get the money, but this is something to see, something to experience first hand- photography at its primitive best! Danger, adventure, excitement writ large...

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Spill The Wine

Good music (like good photography) creates its own universe, in which it reigns immortal...

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Forgotten King Of The Selfie

Selfie this, selfie that, with all the articles, posts, rants and raves about selfies- amazing you don't much hear the name of its original and undisputed lord and master. Well before the cell phone, yes, even before the dawn of digital, there was The Ambiguous Ambassador himself-  Tseng Kwong Chi! Unlike today's endless repetitions of nothing much- his were worth the time to look at, and savor...

Tseng Kwong Chi- Sic transit gloria mundi.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Fabrice Fouillet @ Lens Culture

If you haven't been over to Lens Culture of late, they've gotten one helluva makeover- love the new layout; that said, it still wouldn't matter none if they had nothing to look at. Fortunately, that's hardly the case and there's something, if not a lotta things, for everyone. And they're really quite up on promoting new photographers and their work.

I particularly turned green with envy upon seeing this essay entitled Colosses by Fabrice Fouillet. History, humor, the conventional tourist photo op turned on its head for one surreal, oversized travel treat. Positively green...

Friday, April 4, 2014

Technology That Can Destroy A Nation...

And it's practically everywhere. Ticking time bombs, each and every one- that last generations...
And Obama's backing two more!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Plain As Black And White...

Experts tell us that the dynamic range in digital capture is now every bit the equal of film. And since I've never ever done 100% B&W digital workflow- who am I to argue?

So I'll just say this: it's downright peculiar that bad B&W darkroom prints could look bad in a THOUSAND different ways (I know- I probably invented a few), and bad digital prints tend to have that same telltale signature badness- washed out highlights in scenes of high contrast along with overall tonal gradations that seem to have been reduced from somewhere around infinite to about, ohhh... half a dozen. Really freakin' weird that so many are getting it so wrong... the same exact way!

PS- Guess I answered my own question... instead of countless repetitions of every different kind of bad- we now have countless repetitions of one kinda bad. Now that there's Progress!!!

Update: Ode to Tri-X.