Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Government of Law

It is so often stated (with much pomp and pride) that this is a nation of law, as if this sacred principle applies to everyone equally, when in reality, the law serves those that most directly control and influence it- while those most in need of its protection are, in turn, those most abused by it. The Ferguson Grand Jury was not the greatest perversion of law and justice, merely its most recent, and more importantly, it's most publicized.  And yet, even when so obviously twisted and perverted to facilitate and favor those in power, so many remain oblivious, silent or... satisfied.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

9/22/14 NYC- Photo: © S. Banos

And speaking of unbridled greed run amuck- James Risen's Pay Any Price, will walk you through one very long list of astronomical economic gaffes willingly perpetrated by our government.  Up to $20,000,000,000 (yup, billions with a B) were delivered to Iraq in 2003, on pallets no less- and quickly... l-o-s-t! Up to half of that is still completely unaccounted for (if you really believe the first half was)- and the US has shown no desire whatsoever to even look for it. Billion$ to shoot, maim, bomb and kill; billion$ to lose and corrupt, but scant few dollars for these people, or even those much, much closer to home...

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

When Is A Ham Sandwich...

Every witness in defense of Michael Brown was cross examined, interrogated and supposedly discredited. Darren Wilson was allowed to fully present his version unchallenged and unimpeded. This so called grand jury process was a one sided, second class "trial" for second class citizens- one very convenient semblance of justice, on the fly in full public view, to quash any real chance of justice actually playing out.

*According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. attorneys prosecuted 162,000 federal cases in 2010, the most recent year for which we have data. Grand juries declined to return an indictment in 11 of them.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Vivian Maier: A Photographer Found

It's BIG, it's thick, it's (fairly) Expen$ive- most of all it's... surprisingly damn good! Surprisingly, not because I had any doubt whatsoever about Vivian Maier's talent, but because this is the first book of her work that one doesn't have to make excuses for. There's nothing to complain about as far as the quality of the reproductions (unlike that first powerHouse sepia fiasco), and there's a good amount of work included- even though the book excludes some shots I've already come to regard as "favorites," there's still many a potent image to be found here that demonstrates just how much talent she had at her command. You look through this body of work and any lingering doubt that anyone may still hold that she was just some lucky holiday snapshooter with a load of posthumous publicity at her back... well, that just implodes and dissipates into the envious, vacuous bullshit that it always was.

This woman was in control of her vision- and she was killing it. A shot of her with Rollei and Leica at the forefront shows this was one very determined female on a mission. Nothing la-de-da in her attitude, or her results. I just came upon Vivian Maier: A Photographer Found the other day, so I'm late in the game, but there's no doubt whatsoever this is the best of the bunch thus far, by far. You get a good sense of who and what she was as an artist, and it is amazing how she predated so much of what was yet to come on the street...

And as if that wasn't enough, there's even a few choice color shots thrown in; a handful to be fair, but just enough to let you know that she could talk the talk and walk the walk in that language too. A couple could easily have gone into Eggleston's For Now. I don't have the money to grab this one at the moment (Xmas sounds nice), but it's certainly good to know that there's finally, at least one good, representative book out there, right now that shows Ms. Maier in her best light before that scum trawling bucket of sleaze gummed up the works.

Sunday, November 23, 2014


I'm gonna assume this guy had ample reason to do exactly what he did, and doesn't any man alive wish he could do just that when the occasion calls?

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Funny Ha-HA, Or Funny Sick?

"If its [function] is just something like getting rid of e-mail spam and it determines the best way of getting rid of spam is getting rid of humans..."   -Elon Musk

Hey, the guy's no joke, neither are his... jokes. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Way of the (Photo) Gallery

Going to photo galleries in NYC, which I did religiously from the mid seventies until 1998, was not unlike... attending (Catholic) church. No one from on high (from the pulpit to the high heavens) would ever actually engage you personally- usually, you'd leave as if you'd seen and heard it all before; at best, you left inspired to do your best. Catholicism, of course, is big on ceremony and hierarchy, and unfortunately, often a top down experience- accept the dogma, no need to question.

Photo galleries in NYC operate in similar manner to this very day. The big ones are imposing and sacrosanct- they, through their good graces, are letting you enter and partake... at a distance. Your silence and deference is part and parcel of the understood contractual agreement. Unless you are actually buying and dealing with those in the inner sanctum, you will be tolerated (begrudgingly).

Photo galleries in San Francisco can look like those in NY, but they are generally smaller and fewer in number. And oddly, very oddly, gallery owners and directors will at times, rare as they may be, actually stop, acknowledge and converse with anonymous gallery goers like myself. Such blatant breach in protocol would never, ever occur in a NY gallery. In fact, as previously mentioned here, the only interaction I remember a gallerist initiating in NY was two weeks post 9/11 when an owner saw me and quickly turned and fled, sheer terror on her face, into the safety of her back room. Didn't even have time to inform her I was just your average, everyday New Yorican. Somehow, she had intuited that Muslim terrorists as myself had downed the towers as mere diversion- the unmitigated destruction of New York's photo galleries was the real jihadi prize galore.  

Recently, not one, but two staff members on two separate occasions have asked me what they thought of their shows as they exited their offices at The Fraenkel Gallery. Gallerists Stephen Wirtz (sadly, his gallery is now closed) and Ann Jastrab have also voluntarily made the effort to interact with gallery goers. It is one of the positives that help distinguish galleries in San Francisco, something I fear may not last much longer as more and more money pours into this city, along with the people who feel that we must defer to them.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Times Square- Past & Present

9/21/14 NYC- Photo: © S. Banos

Times Square is no longer the seedy, sometimes dangerous place I once knew. Like the Berlin Wall, it was something I never questioned was destined to remain forever so. Most would probably find it odd that I'd prefer what it once was to the safe, people friendly environment it is now. I'd probably feel differently, if only it wasn't so Disneyfied- literally.

There is this one tiniest of patches however that retains a shadow of that gloomy, nostalgic past; ironically, it's right behind the small NYPD building right in its very midst. NYC, past and present, @ 1/30 & 2.8.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Have A Listen...

One of the best This American Life programs in some time- particularly about the bus driver in 1947 who turns his bus left instead of right one beautiful, sunny weekday in NYC and... keeps driving to Florida, and the episode where they interview seniors about time travel.

Meanwhile, Russell Brand, whose very sight would make me cringe (until I heard him speak) continues to outtalk and out logic anyone, anywhere when it comes to socio/economic/political discourse on either side of the Atlantic...

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Books! Books! Books!

In case ya haven't seen Blake's post on B, or Alines's on Lenscratch, there are some pretty damn good photo books for sale via Blue Sky for a really damn good price! These are not ebooks, but real, on paper books by damn good photographers. And although they may not be as "refined" in presentation as your more standard photo book offerings- B assures us they are, in fact, good enough (and that's good enough for me). Did I mention the prices? Something for everyone, and I'm gonna get me some...

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Honesty vs. Cowardice

Iraq War vet/peace activist Tomas Young died Monday. Tomas Young was a victim of a needless, unnecessary war fought at the behest of a man too cowardly to go to war himself. Instead, the coward chose to fly planes at home, and when bored of flying planes, just left and got drunk.

Mr. Young died a slow, excruciatingly painful death- a death that lasted a good ten years. While Mr. Young suffered, the man who sent him to death laughed and made fun of the needless, useless war he himself had created- a war that cost hundreds of thousands of lives (many, women and children) was laughed at by those that didn't have to fight it. A needless war that created more conflicts and more enemies, persisting to this very day. 

Mr. Young is dead- but thousands of others, wounded and maimed, survive silent and unseen. The remainder of their lives spent in pain, while one man lives the rest of his in luxury and denial.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

US Marshalls- Art And Testosterone

Photo: Brian Finke

No doubt that Brian Finke can take one helluva photo. This guy's got chops, period. He can take high adrenaline action shots and formalize them into "fine art" color photography that can compete with the best of 'em. Not only does he make masterful use of the color palette, he also artfully composes his shots so that the action (or lack of it), staged or real, grabs your attention and holds it. And his use of lighting is just the right balance to complement and define the shot without sanitizing or commercializing it. It's interesting to examine just how this guy sees and work, and how he brings that complexity of vision to this particular "action genre."

Photo: Brian Finke

Do ya sense a but here? That's because I could not help but feel a tad queasy while viewing U.S. Marshalls. They no doubt do some really great work, dangerous work, necessary work that has to be done. But I'm also leery of all the gun ho, militarization of today's various police forces, and their glamorization. While millions upon millions are being poured into this nation's law enforcement agencies, many, if not most prisons today get little to no dollars for: rehabilitation, drug rehab, job training or education programs. Why, oh why, should prisons get funding for such programs? Because the vast majority of those prisoners will be coming out unto our streets once again at some point. Banned by law from public housing and effectively banned from most jobs when they are made to confess their personal history on job applications- wouldn't we all feel considerably safer if they had something constructive to do with their time? And maybe, just maybe, that is in large part why prisons nationwide hover around a 70% recidivism rate- what other business is allowed to operate with such a ridiculously high failure rate?

Photo: Brian Finke

If anything, this book reads as much recruitment poster, as it does art. Perhaps that's not entirely fair to throw in when judging a monograph solely on artistic merit, but eminently fair when considering and judging as a work of art.

Mr. Finke was allowed access to the world of US Marshalls through a childhood friend, now agent. During that time, effectively as an embed, they talked of mutual childhood acquaintances that were currently incarcerated. Perhaps one day Mr. Finke will also allow us a view into the federal prison system. And at that point, I may even accuse him of painting too alluring a picture of prison life...

PS- In the interest of full disclosure, Powerhouse Books contacted me to write about this book- no money, books, or other miscellaneous swag were exchanged in the process.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Lists, Conspiracies, and Point of Origin

9/23/14 NYC- Photo: © S. Banos

Although there is no doubt whatsoever that Washington is awash in AIPAC $$$ (thus thoroughly compromising our Middle East foreign policy), "rest" assured that the remainder of America, and the world (from ruling WASP elites to average working stiffs of every color and denomination), is still thoroughly entrenched knee deep in anti-Semitism. The above is one conspiracy theory that has been around for centuries- and one that should have been put to rest just as long ago...

Reciprocity Failure: San Francisco Peaceniks, conspiracy theorists, and the marginalized silent majority   -via B
I knew it would happen one day- if I was knowledgeable enough, dedicated enough, sincere enough.  Reciprocity Failure would finally (FINALLY!) make it onto a "best of" list! Well, kinda, sorta... not really. But it was... a list!!! Strangest part was being associated with- San Francisco.*

Anyway, the positive side to all this (yes, there actually is one) is that there were some really good sites mentioned on said list that I've just either never got around to including, or just plain didn't know about- which you can now find (due right), thanks to Blake!

*So why exactly did I move to San Francisco? After all, it's been well over a decade now and I've yet to mutter dude or Awesome, that would just be hella gnarly. Well, there were three possible options in NYC: A) Start a family, like most folks, B) Make it big in whatever area of your choosing, C) Turn into a dithering old man muttering nonsensically on a street corner. I chose not to do A;  B kinda just didn't happen- trust me, there are plans in place right now (won't get into details) to deal with those who prevented that from happening; and  C... I just really wanted to avoid.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Help Us, Save Us... Anyone!?

Well, the American people have spoken! Dissatisfied with our current lot and our current crop of ineffectual, so called leaders, we once again ran screaming to the flip side of the same sad coin to elect those who can get things done- and in the worst possible way. Case in point- soon to be Senate Majority Leader Mad Max Mitch O'Connell gathered mucho support because of his pro-US stance on Big Coal- his gun ho, yahoo supporters completely oblivious to the fact that his filthy rich wife is in the business of shipping in cheap coal from... Columbia (along with a little blow on the side). The "git the gov'ment out of my Medicare" brain fart mentality goes a long (long) way in brainwashing the Republican faithful, along with copious amounts of voter suppression and under the counter racism galore. These guys are determined to run whatever's left of the earth into the ground, out of the ground and straight into their ever lovin' pockets. And they won't stop until there's nothing left to hide behind...

9/21/14 NYC- Photo: © S. Banos

9/21/14 NYC- Photo: © S. Banos

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

How Do I Love Sage Sohier!?

Let me count the ways... No, seriously. This is a photographer who I had never heard of just a few short days ago, a photographer who is very much the complete amalgam of every photographer I love most (slight exaggeration only- see below). How could she have escaped my view for so long- we're talking... years decades here! A photographer using many of my favorite tools and language, ways of seeing and communicating... all of which she employs to so much better use. Each photograph a plethora of details and minutiae, and somewhere within those intriguing frames... a uniquely powerful human presence. And she's been creating these wonders, forever- where the hell was I???

So rather than trying (and no doubt failing) to further explain why I appreciate her so, why don't I just try something a tad different to illustrate (and celebrate) said admiration with the myriad of influences and similarities so readily visible in her work. The only question being- who influenced whom!?!? (This is not to proclaim direct influences either way, merely to denote similarities- feel free to make your own comparison list).

Photo: Sage Sohier  (via Vanessa Winship)

Photo: Sage Sohier  (via Mark Cohen)

Photo: Sage Sohier  (via Chauncey Hare)

Photo: Sage Sohier  (via Bill Owens)

Photo: Sage Sohier  (via Diane Arbus)

Photo: Sage Sohier  (via Tod Papageorge)

Photo: Sage Sohier  (via Thomas Roma)

Photo: Sage Sohier  (via Mark Steinmetz)

Photo: Sage Sohier  (via Shelby Lee Adams)

Photo: Sage Sohier  (via Matt Black)

Photo: Sage Sohier  (via Gary Winogrand)

Photo: Sage Sohier  (via Joel Sternfeld)