Sunday, June 29, 2014

(Not So) Critical Mass?

I was gonna write about what a blatant rip Critical Mass (hosted by Photo Lucida) is with its two tier bait 'em and hook 'em submission payments. But I then seemed to remember(?) that this was previously discussed and debated, and that the general consensus was, that it was, in fact, one of the more legitimate photo competitions, and that it did ultimately live up to its promise of helping photographers, and publicizing their work. Frankly, I have no proof (or recollection) otherwise. So put me down as a... believer.

What's even clearer, however, is that I would have scant possibility of getting past the initial ($79) judging phase* by their bevy of esteemed judges: regardless, it would avail me not since I could scant afford their consequent $200 final judging fee. It's good they are a beneficial force, not so good they serve only those who can afford such benign beneficence.

Yes, yes, I know- ART, is expensive, such has it ever been. But I was already judged by an army of highly qualified judges at The NY Times Portfolio Review earlier this year- and I was soundly rejected, discarded and cast aside by each and every one... for absolutely free!

*actually, a fairly decent chance of getting past the initial review- just to secure the additional revenue (no, my "business acumen" isn't always the best).

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Rhea Karam's Breathing Walls

Photo: Rhea Karam

Rhea Karam's photos over at the newly reconstituted Fraction are not unlike the simple snapshots so many amateurs happily indulge in. But whereas most amateur graffiti snaps are doomed to remain flat, two dimensional recordings, these have a dynamic persona all their own. The compositions are straight forward enough, but somehow she has the eye and the confidence to bring these to life over and over again- just don't ask me how. Lovely (and foretelling).

Monday, June 23, 2014


Yes sir, step right up... We got facts, we got figures, we got charts and graphs and videos- everything a gun toting, gun loving, gun guy or gal could ever possibly want or need...

Lost are ya? We got a map to find your way. Lost count, you say- we can help ya with that. Confused? Got ya covered. Feeling left out? Not to worry. But mostly we're just here to make ya laugh, have some fun and help you relax and share in the joys (and safety) of our nation's ever lovin' gun culture.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Nuclear Energy: Safe, Clean, Cheap, Efficient...

Until it all goes south in a very big way- then it costs billions to contain (there is no "fix"), quite possibly for hundreds thousands millions of years (a multi-multi-multi generational legacy of cancerous contamination)... I've said it before- if the Japanese can't do this right- ain't no humans on earth that can.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Touching Ambiguity- Richard Renaldi

Richard Renaldi: As good as it ever gets!

I usually (usually) steer clear of putting down other people's work- unless it's particularly offensive in some manner. And work that I'm ambivalent about is particularly hazardous, since I'm not sure exactly what I'm conflicted about, let alone how to go about expressing it. Of course, that's the work one should most analyze and discuss since that's the kinda stuff you just may learn something from...

And that's pretty much the way that Richard Renaldi's Touching Strangers strikes me; there are photographs in there that border on transcendent, and others that just leave me cold and feel anywhere from trite to exploitative. Some undoubtedly live off the well composed, feel good, snapshot vibe of Humans of New York; and others feel like everything just gels- emotionally and aesthetically. Well Stan, that's the way strong bodies of portraiture work, you're not gonna like each and every one of 'em. True enough, and lord knows we've all been through the mill as to what portraits can actually "reveal" about anyone, anyway. The problem with Touching Strangers is that there are so many times when I don't even trust my own judgement- is the very premise of its unconventional raison d'etre (photographing complete strangers in such close personal proximity) clouding and prejudicing my judgement? I honestly don't know. Does that mean he has at the very least succeeded as an artist- even if I don't like many of the photographs? Quite likely.

We all know that photographs lie, now we are also forced to deal with the degree of feigned connection and spontaneity these people project because of each other- and these portraits purportedly portray. Or has Renaldi actually managed to both initiate and capture the human bond of interconnectedness lying nascent within us all? Perhaps that seeded sense of ambiguity is why his project works so well- at least on certain levels. And perhaps it is also the gimmick that it so successfully exploits to make us look past it's more obvious weaknesses. Or maybe, maybe I just resent the fact that I have to share in the work here and struggle to make up my mind over and over again about each and every factor, concerning each and every person, in each and every portrait.

Like I said, I'm on the fence about a lotta these- and that ain't gonna clear up anytime soon...

Richard Renaldi- Not quite feeling it (is that the point?)... Are the "failures" also a success? A fail proof project?

Sunday, June 15, 2014

China's Wholesale Slaughter Of The Innocents

...20,000 elephants were killed just in Africa in 2013.  -AP

I really don't care if this is politically correct or not, I know the world can't do anything about asinine Americans slaughtering their own with every kind of firearm available- but I do wish the so called "civilized" world would do something, anything to publicly shame, humiliate and hold China accountable for what they're doing to the animal kingdom. In short, China is funding and facilitating the wholesale slaughter, torture and even extinction of entire species: elephants, rhinos, sharks, dogs- you name it... Weak and ineffective laws are not an answer if these animals continue to be slaughtered for their parts, and then continue to be sold "illegally." The consequences must be strong enough to matter, before these animals cease to exist in the wild.

The facilitators and perpetrators of these mass killings must be held responsible before a world court and international law before it's too late. They will not stop funding this slaughter as long as there is one elephant left in the savannah to fashion into a trinket, one shark swimming in the ocean to turn into soup. These merchants of death must be made to lose face and be held to account- financially, legally, morally... Their greed is limitless, these animals are not.

Japan are you listening? ASIA are you!?!?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Stars And Stripes, Flags And Uncles

Uncle Sam:  © Stan Banos

At times, I can still get overwhelmed by the sight of the American flag, overwhelmed by a most palpable conflict of emotion, conscience and experience. I love what that beautiful field of colors signify and symbolize- the triumph of freedom, fairness and generosity of spirit. Of course, the real deal is very much a mixed bag- freedom (with liberal doses of blatant oppression), opportunity (for the sanctioned monied interests), hope (which often goes no further than its own rhetoric). Was it Vaclav Havel who said, "The only difference between ours (propaganda) and yours... is that you believe yours."

But what about all the great things this country's done, people ask me? No doubt- they are legion. So why do we refuse to accept the many crimes we have also committed along the way? Why do we even refuse to contemplate their possible existence? If only Uncle Sam could stir our nation to battle injustice right here on the home front, and not lead into harm's way those blinded by their leaders' greed and arrogance. Those colors would truly make one proud.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Granted, a certain amount of water has thus passed under the proverbial bridge since a small handful (emphasis on small) of conscientious Americans contemplated reparations on behalf of African Americans, or as they were called then... well, lets move on from the colloquialisms. Of course, it didn't happen then, and Congress (as most Americans) won't even consider... talking about it. Ridiculous, outrageous, the absolute nerve of those...

Let them pull themselves up by their bootstraps, just like everyone else! Which sounds all well and good, I must admit- except... The one thing that (African) American history teaches us time and time again, the one thing that Ta-Nehisi Coates' essay repeatedly smacks you upside the head with, is that not only were Blacks prevented from working for what they aspired to, be it from denial of education, opportunity or equal wages, but once they did achieve success by working twice as hard, for twice as long (for half the pay), despite all the pernicious obstacles- American society was then free and clear to take it all away from them! That's why the subject of Reparations remains in the lock box, never to be opened, discussed or attempted. The dirty little secret of secrets would then be revealed: the myth of hard work equaling success, the fallacy of shared sacrifice, the mockery of a justice for all.

Coates equates Reparations with the unpaid credit card of overdue wages for hundreds of years of forced labor; the thing is that those willing to discuss it are not clamoring for a free ride and cash on the barrel head- they're talking: education, health care, income parity, etc. I'm not going to break down every straw man, red herring and outright fallacy that White America throws out in their denunciation of the very thought of Reparations- the experts linked to here do a much better job of that. And as for where would we get the money, well... the previous administration would have told you the same as any other- it doesn't exist, it just isn't there. And that was before they launched us into a totally unnecessary and illegal multi-trillion dollar war.

But we all know we live in a post racial society, and all that animosity, inequality, and unfair housing practices are a thing of a long and bygone era... Right?

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Joakim Eskildsen In Eastern Cuba

Photo: Joakim Eskildsen

Really fell in love with the color and quality of light in Joakim Eskildsen's photos of eastern Cuba, and was rather surprised to find he was still using... film. And using it for pretty much the same reasons I still treasure it...

Photo: Joakim Eskildsen

Friday, June 6, 2014

Too Crazy, Too Lazy To Fix...

 Or better yet:

"'No Way to Prevent This,' Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens."
 --The Onion

This is a country at war with itself for profit. This is a country at war with itself because its ruling elite is too cowed, or too well-bribed, or too cowardly to recognize that there are people who are getting rich arming both sides, because the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, so you make sure that it's easy for the bad guys to get guns in order to make millions selling the guns to the good guys (emphasis mine).    --Charlie Pierce

But two of the notable quotes from one of the better pieces I've seen written on the reoccurring atrocities we now take in accustomed seasonal stride. By golly, if we were an agrarian society we could now dispense with star sightings and seasonal shifts, relying instead, on our regular bloodletting of the innocents to plant and harvest our crops... like the virginal offerings of olde to the troublesome gods of fertility.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Christophe Debon's Character Studies

Photo: Christophe Debon

Recently, I was ranting against the trend of sticking your camera in someone's face to get that so called "gritty street look." Here is someone who is clearly getting very up close and personal, and yet is going for more than just the obvious one trick pony, allowing for a more subtle and nuanced vision.

Most practitioners of street photography also shoot the "much as you can" in focus route. And for good reason, since one is often trying to tie in various aspects of the background into a meaningful composition with the main subject(s)- not to mention, often not having the luxury to accurately focus. Christophe Debon however, even though he is going wide, also opts for a shallow depth of field to really focus on the person* (ie- the portrait) within the composition, provide a more "three dimensional" effect, and allow for a greater sense of physical separation between the subject and his surroundings (which in turn heightens both the contrast and emotional impact between subject and environment).            *takes a second or two to snap into focus on my computer- but well worth the wait...    

Photo: Christophe Debon

A simple, yet effective, combination of techniques, one that has no doubt been used before, but (far as I can recall) not with such consistency, and such consistently good results (in this particular genre). It will be interesting to see how his vision develops... and needless to say, it's oh, so nice (oh so very, very nice) to see digital B&W street photography where the highlights are not blown out.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Validation, Redemption, Vacation

Got ya covered!
Finally managed to purposely stumble into some worthwhile photo scenarios and fire off a few frames of potential good fortune. Strange to seek validation from the capture of a handful of selected photons unto a slice of emulsion the size of a postage stamp. But there's no doubting what a few photo possibilities do to lift morale.

Speaking of validation- here's one, last chance gasp for redemption in 2014 (and travel, as in v-a-c-a-t-i-o-n, is exactly what I and the guy above need most)...

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Self Destruction

Unfortunately, since this video was made, we have not only failed to curtail our own self destruction, we have redoubled our effort to destroy the very planet we live and depend upon and everything within it...