Friday, May 30, 2014

The 9/11 Cheeseboard!

If ya can't afford the official 9/11 cheeseboard after paying $24 to get into the The 9/11 Museum- you'll have to drink your coffee solo from the 9/11 coffee mug...
(and no French cheese within those borders, please!)

UPDATE: Alas! The memorial cheeseboard has been... removed!

Photo: Scott Lynch / Gothamist

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Signs Of... Intelligence On American TV!

This was truly... SHOCK AND AWE!!!  

And in a very BIG way. No bachelorettes, no pseudo-reality pretension, none of the incessant and purposely dumbed down, celebrity obsessed programming that perpetually constipate our national airwaves. Instead, we were treated to the most intelligent and frank talking head interview on prime time TV that I can recall in years, decades, one helluva, very long time...

I'm talking, of course, about the Edward Snowden interview on NBC. The honesty and clarity of his responses, the complete lack of bombast and subterfuge, the sincerity and commitment to the very core of what this country supposedly stands for- all of it laid bare for those with eyes to see and ears to listen.

And still, there are those who call him traitor, coward and worse, who want to see him jailed, humiliated, and yes, executed. Truth is such a rare commodity these days; it sounds shrill and foreign to so many ears. We have been trained to ignore it, dismiss it, lampoon the ever lovin' hell outta it. We dare not risk recognizing and acknowledging what we have been conditioned to avoid and fear- the word of a man who for no personal gain, has exposed the lies we trust, swear to and live by.

PS- Two things: First, he did (repeatedly) alert his superiors to the illegalities being committed- all to no avail. Second, for those who say he should face the music- remember, just about anything and everything that he could possibly bring up in his defense can be (would be) automatically dismissed "in the name of national security." It would be a "trial" in name only, the only question- the severity of his sentence.

Actually, three- many members of Congress, and even POTUS himself now grudgingly agree that the NSA "overreached." Translation: OK, technically he's right, but... he must be punished anyway to set the example. Right- soon as they indict, convict and imprison each and every bankster who broke our laws...

UPDATE: The Snowden Effect

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Beef, Refried, Mild Salsa & Assault Weapons

These mature, respectable gun wielding patrons at Chipolte can't seem to put down their assault rifles long enough to order a burrito for fear it would render them vulnerable and defenseless to bad guys with assault weapons who may walk in right when they're garnishing their hot sauce.

Reminded me of... This Headline.

Fortunately, neither of these two look like anyone who would shoot up a campus- or a burrito shack, or...

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Memorial Day

Photo: Ashley Gilbertson

It was only last week when Bedrooms Of The Fallen by Ashley Gilbertson, which I had posted on before, popped into mind out of nowhere. It had been some time- what had ever come of it?

The book is now finally out and makes for a most fitting memorial and tribute to one side. But work this good, if it embraced a more inclusive approach, would have the potential to open hearts and minds on a universal level. Ashley Gibertson had made some mention back in 2010 that he was considering making a separate volume to memorialize the innocent Iraqi children and civilians that were needlessly slaughtered in this completely unnecessary war of choice. Wonder if there has been any progress on that front...

It seems that one way to ensure that these needless wars continue to occur again and again and again, is to only remember and honor one side, one viewpoint- and in this case (as in so many others), the side of the aggressor.

I realize that such a viewpoint will fall mostly on deaf ears, and only serve to infuriate others, but if we someday ever learn to question (and challenge) those who send us off to war on their own personal whim for their own personal aggrandizement, we may have the opportunity to mourn less, and see more of our children grow into responsible adults.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

God's Pocket

Three minutes into this movie, I turned to my wife and said, "This is so freakin' depressing- it's one of my favorite all time movies." Of course, it was a ludicrous thing to say- at least the latter part. And even though I was the only guy laughing out loud in the theater for the first two thirds of the movie- in the end, I was right on both counts. 

This movie has some major plot holes, but... it's the little hapless, off center character touches that inundate both the visuals on screen and the characters themselves that give this movie its dark, foreboding humor and its uncanny ring of authenticity ('70s and otherwise). The main characters are all fatally flawed and frayed, everyone hanging on dearly for that last gasp of life giving air and salvation- all so they can live to fuck up just one more time the very next day...

On a minor note, the film should have ended when Seymour Hoffman's character went walking down the darkened street (instead of what seemed like a tacked on "happy" ending)- needless to say, this movie made especially real how much Seymour Hoffman will be missed...   A Must See.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Great Unveiling

And as predicted- just in time to help ward off a subsequent Rejection Notice Depression. 
Ladies and Gentlemen, 58 & 1/2yrs in the making...  BEHOLD---

It's up, it's running- for laughs, glory, and critical acclaim! And now, for the obligatory frenzy to acquire and sustain the most hits, the most eyes, the most views and likes- or something to that effect. Actually, I have little stomach and no game plan for that right now, don't even know how to go about it. Once again, in the words of that most quoted of ancient philosopher kings, "It is, what it is."

PS-  Final irony...  Why is it .net instead of .com you ask? Because was already taken. You mean there's another sorry bastard of an S. Banos out there somewhere? Rest assured- there is no alternate Bizarro Banos. The dot com designation is held by... me, rather it is being held hostage by the kidnapper, extortionist company known as who won't release it for my own use until I pay an additional $50 ransom for their "premium" program which will allow me to use it for the very first time since paying for it last year.* Instead, I opted to register .net with Namecheap for $12, a pretty cool registry recommended by 4ormat, whose customer service (along w/very reasonable yearly plan) is proving quite commendable.

* That's right I even end up losing to... myself.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Hype and Deliverance

Was anxious to see the Vivian Maier photos on display at The Scott Nichols Gallery upon hearing that the show (which I knew nothing about) was closing the very next day. Sadly, a good half of the photos on display from the Jeffrey Goldstein Collection were definitely not her best artistically or aesthetically, the others... OK. And I was really taken aback by some of the printing, a good half of 'em looked like test prints, way too heavy on the contrast; don't know if the negs were lacking, or what. Definitely not something a gallery would usually have shown- if not for the name. Still a major fan of the vast majority of her work, but will just have to wait for the definitive book, and show...

Did get to see an incredible exhibit of Bruce Davidson's civil rights era photographs at The Robert Koch Gallery which was something akin to a religious experience. First, the prints themselves were gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous- and keep in mind these are from 35mm negs. Many of the images reminded me of Renaissance subjects, all the beauty and color of old world portrait masters miraculously transcribed into grainy B&W. An early chapter from one of the greatest to ever hold a camera.

Photo: Bruce Davidson

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Roll Full Of Almost

Photo © S.Banos: Grand Canyon circa '89

Recently (outta desperation), I decided to try my hand at doing a series atop Twin Peaks, San Francisco's scenic vista viewpoint. It's a tourist hotspot with a steady stream of visitors checking out the skyline et al, and since everybody's there with a camera in hand for a relatively short amount of time before departing to the next tourist hotspot, it's relatively easy to shoot without arising too much suspicion. I had tried it years ago with little success and abandoned the idea since I wasn't quite as desperate for a coupla decent photos; seems the drought here however (at least for me), goes well beyond water. Oh, and one more thing- I have to cycle, not drive, to the top of said peak... doable yes, but not something one looks forward to. 

Two Sundays and one roll later (yeah, that's a lot for me- I shoot 35mm with a large format mind set), I was looking forward to a successful start with several very promising possibilities... that never transpired upon development. Perhaps pushing my well past 50yr old bod all the way up such incredible heights into an oxygen depleted strata of our atmosphere had taken its toll on my mental faculties. All I got for my effort (besides the exercise) was... a roll full of almost(s). So, what went wrong?

The picture above was shot in somewhat similar circumstances, and is one of my all time faves. But it has a few more things going for it. For one, it has those incredibly dramatic clouds that seem to extend into space itself, it also has... a background that envelops the lone subject right into the protruding foreground- and it doesn't get much better than the Grand Canyon. As beautiful, as San Francisco can be, atop its scenic viewpoint, the skyline's way off in the distance, flat as a pancake, and was of no aesthetic consequence whatsoever. 

And that was what was most missing in my photos- a background to play the groupings of tourists against and make for a successful composition. Without a backdrop to add a layer of contrast and interest, the weight fell entirely on the tourists in the foreground. They did their job alright, but the supporting cast didn't show; they couldn't pass the ball, and I couldn't make the hoop (hey, it's playoff season). Perhaps that was why I had very consciously, and uncharacteristically, become very aware of the color of people's clothing while shooting- my unconscious was signalling that there just wasn't enough there (no, not oxygen depletion- stimulus deprivation)! I would need the composition to focus completely on the form and actions of the main subjects- and the two instances where that almost manifested imploded when others walked into the frame just as I was about to release. I'll probably make it up there once more before summer's out (again, outta sheer desperation), not to do an essay- that's definitely not gonna fly. But I gotta (gotta) get at least one shot out of it... maybe.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Official Website...

In anticipation of a long upcoming rejection notice (and subsequent depression), a not very productive photo year thus far (to say the very least), and the arrival of my tax refund- I finally decided to get up offa my butt and make the move to put together... The Official Website! No it's not up yet- give it a coupla more days, but it's well beyond the ponderin' stage, and just needs to get its i's dotted and t's crossed.

There were several things that have held me back all these years- a lot of it dealing with the tyranny of choice (so many endless options of styles and services), not to mention the issue of cost (my blog is FREE!- you mean I gotta pay how much for this!?), the fact that I already have my photos up on Flickr (c'mon, seriously, ain't that enough?), and besides... it's not like anyone's gonna beat down the door to get to my brand spankin' new official website.

But in the immortal words of today's most relevant and insightful catch phrase deluxe- It is what it is! After the obligatory pain in the ass research, I chose, their very reasonable yearly Basic Plan is all I really need. And actually, I'm pretty damn happy with it (true- I haven't launched it... yet). I wanted something simple- easy to use, and easy on the eyes. And that it most definitely is; and the really nice part... I lucked out into a service, style and software that required the bare minimum of tweeking. The very best thing about a website though (yes, even my minimalist landscape of a site) is that it can definitely make you look... GOOD! Well, at least in your own eyes. You merely put up solid hit, after solid hit- just enough to look... GOOD (REAL GOOD), and then leave them asking for more. Least, that's how I hear it's supposed to work.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

How To Blow A Cool Hundred... Million

"more than twenty million dollars of Zuckerberg’s gift and matching donations went to consulting firms..."

Coulda told ya that was bad move #1, and saved ya a cool coupla mil! Aren't you the guy who became Mark Master Z by not dealing with bureaucrats in the first place??? Never fails- even the smartest minds all go suddenly kinda D-U-M-B when it comes to... education.

So, what would you have done, Mr. Smarty Pants- you no doubt ask... Well, I wouldn't have made a move, or spent a single dollar, without asking this guy first!

Monday, May 12, 2014

I Am Looking For Life- Anders Petersen with Anders Petersen from fineArtPrint on Vimeo.

Photo: Anders Petersen
I recently saw Anders Petersen's retrospective book (called... Anders Petersen); it's a big thick book (something like 250 photos) and about a third of the way through it began to wear on me, as if I had already just rifled through the trials and tribulations of several rather complex and very idiosyncratic lives. One of the reasons it began to wear on me was because of the way the book is set up, and because of the way Mr. Petersen photographs. In short, there are too many photographs facing each other, and this claustrophobic feel is further enhanced by the high contrast look Mr. Petersen employs. Fortunately, there are no washed out highlights so characteristic nowadays of careless B&W digital post, rather, Mr. Petersen lets the shadows go dark and the corners vignette for drama. It's intense, and makes each and every photograph demand attention- not a bad thing, just not so great when they're so crowded together, seemingly competing with one another.

Would I recommend this (not inexpensive) book, this sometimes hard to look at, hard to get through book? ABSOLUTELY! For the simple reason that so many of the images are... so good. There's certainly enough for at least two, maybe three solid books here; think of it as life writ large: compressed, condensed and magnified. Images that make you question, draw nearer, and sometimes have you retreat; it's certainly never boring and will even reward you with the occasional smile. As with life itself, one must learn to pace oneself, enjoy it as much as possible and explore it as it unfolds. And then there's the man himself, as unassuming as his diminutive Contax T3, you can sense his presence on every page...

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Stolen, Not Found

Photo Of You Here.

Stolen girls, stolen photos- ironically, both issues have a history of being pushed into the background. Obviously, the most important and overriding concern in this particular instance is that of the safe return of the kidnapped girls- ASAP.

Whenever images are appropriated, misrepresented and misused, it opens up a torrent of potential problems (legal and non legal) involving: ownership, identity, reputation, compensation, etc. Copyright laws really need to be reexamined and (ideally) simplified for all users, brought up to speed with current media and usage, and then... reinforced.

A couple of commenters on the Lens blog said that the appropriation of someone's image (without permission or acknowledgement of either the subject or photographer) for a totally unrelated purpose was basically a non issue (happens all the time, don't ya know)- I responded by asking one how he would feel if a photograph of him was appropriated for a pro or anti NAMBLA ad in which his image was identified as being a member of said organization. 

Think that goes a way to setting things in perspective...

UPDATE: More here...

Friday, May 9, 2014


A man walks into his car, and for the next 90 minutes- you are trapped alongside him. And you've no choice but to listen to his every word on the phone as he tries to salvage some semblance of a life, as everything he's ever had outside that car interior slowly dissolves and dissipates...

Amazing how quickly an hour and a half can go by with tight editing and good acting-  minimalism literally personified.

CAUTION:  Elicits High Risk of subject induced "relationship discussion" with significant other...

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Waiting Game- Txema Salvans

Photo: Txema Salvan

A while back Mishka Henner's No Man's Land introduced us to the prostitutes that populate Italy's periphery, and did so via screenshots of Google Street View. It was a fascinating use of technology, and a completely impersonal glimpse of their existence. Later, Paolo Patrizi did a boots on the ground documentation called Migration, concentrating on the circumstances and conditions of the women who work that particular landscape. It put humanity back into the computerized images we saw standing about, and gave testimony to the consequences of their lives- even if we didn't actually see that much of... them.

Now we have The Waiting Game by Txema Salvans, where the prostitutes are located in southern Spain. Senor Salvans employed a rather novel method in capturing these working women in candid repose- he would drive around disguised as a topographer, complete with a topographer's tripod he had specially designed to mount his view camera upon. Ingenious, yes. Ethical? The surreptitious photographs of Mr. Alex Garcia immediately came to mind as he went about secretly recording the residents of inner city Chicago. Do these photographs sink to that level? Salvans states that he thought about paying his subjects, but that would have resulted in posed or uncharacteristic scenarios. His disguise option seemed the best method available to not violate... The Prime Directive.

Photo: Txema Salvan

So how is his method any different than Garcia's, or Henner's for that matter, since Salvans was no more involved with his subjects than some guy at a computer monitor? Garcia's subjects were all in one very specific and geographically accessible neighborhood, these women are working in various, rather isolated areas and are not native to that land. Many are controlled by pimps with links to their homelands (as Salvans himself explains), and do not want to be photographed for obvious safety reasons; hanging out in plain sight to gain their trust over time would have also been a costly proposition to all concerned- particularly the women in more ways than one.

All things considered, I think he did what he had to do and in the best possible manner. You may think otherwise, and I would most definitely like to hear why (make sure you read the interview first). Aesthetically however, there's little argument that these photographs are the best of the lot (unless, of course, you disagree)...

Photo: Txema Salvan

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Photographic Tradition

Photo: Costica Acsinte
Photo: Vanessa Winship

At times, it almost seems as Ms. Winship was channeling Mr. Acsinte. I would love to be so possessed, perhaps it is as much an age old obsession with the Balkans themselves, as it is anything else. But then, as much as I love the portraits they are both so well known for- it's Ms. Winship's 35mm. "street" photography that totally mesmerizes me (see Black Sea Pt. 1 & 2, and A Balkan Journey). It just doesn't get any more magical than that!

Photo: Vanessa Winship

Sunday, May 4, 2014

College Students Actually Deserving Of Sympathy

How bad is the college loan/student debt crisis- Crazy Bad! Bad enough so that graduates cannot even proceed with the careers they borrowed money for in the first place because they are now choked by overwhelming debts and interest rates often not properly explained in the first place, and then subject to transfers and raises. Debt that even bankruptcy won't erase, debt that can even be transferred to family members upon death! Debt so staggering and overwhelming that young people are actually killing themselves- all over that which is often free in other developed and "undeveloped" countries- a higher education.

Higher Ed- the new US government subsidized racket keeping us poor, servile and forever in debt (now, whether you play the game- or not).

In December 2007, a class action lawsuit was brought against Sallie Mae in a Connecticut Federal Court.,[26] alleging that the company discriminated against African American and Hispanic private student loan applicants by charging them high interest rates and fees. The lawsuit also alleged that Sallie Mae failed to properly disclose private student loan terms to unsuspecting students.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Dear White University Guy

Tal Fortgang. Photo: The College Fix

I'm sorry you're finding out that life is not fair. Bummer, huh? For instance, I know that you know that if your average White guy is driving down the road, and your average Black guy is driving down the same road- you know who's going to get stopped, right? And sometimes it's not just the little things, either- like when you're being sentenced for a crime (particularly one you didn't commit). I could go on (and on)... but you're a busy guy working hard at a prestigious university.

Anyway, I wish you well on life's journey. A little advice- if your boat capsizes and you find yourself thrashing about in the water, don't be too surprised if those White faces row on by and leave you bobbing up and down amongst the Brown and Black faces- "unfortunately," you are Jewish. You're right, "White Privilege," it ain't all it's cracked up to be...

As Professor Battalora states: "[His essay] just reveals how much work there is to be done.”

Friday, May 2, 2014

$15! $15!! $15!!!

Although what we really should be fighting for and demanding is a minimum wage that is also a "living wage" this is a good start in the right direction- it would also mean a coupla extra rolls of film in my pocket if and when it gets down here...

Share this HUGE victory in Seattle
Hear! Hear!

Awww... How can ya resist that sweet little puppy face? I ask ya...