Monday, December 29, 2014

The Bayou Blues

Recently had the opportunity to binge watch True Detective. It took me back to the late seventies, when I embarked on my first road trip south of DC to experience the mystery called Mardi Gras in the equally exotic locale of New Orleans, spurred on by the B&W photos of Toby Old. I would emerge from a day and a half long bus trip (a small lump on the side of my head from falling asleep and repeatedly bumping my head against the bus window), take photos from noon till six, and then repeat the process back to NY. Young, dumb, full of cum...

The bayou landscape I first gazed upon from the Greyhound bus was as eerie a landscape as I had ever set eyes upon. Not your average, everyday, run of the mill, generic Americana; a presence unto itself- one gets that straight off. Something that could be intensely beautiful, and equally as foreboding. And that was just my initial reaction from the main road, my mind hazily wandering onto what possibly laid beyond in the side roads that meandered off.

I was reminded of that while watching True Detective, a series concerning two partners, each as unlike the other as can be; one possessed in his utter determination and intuition, the other workmanlike, coasting lazily to some futile facsimile of domestic American normalcy. Turns out they're hunting a serial killer, something I was quite interested in around the time I made my aforementioned bus trip- something I had well grown bored to tears with by the time Silence of The Lambs premiered.

Fortunately, the series does not burden and subject us to the usual myriad of the killer's idiosyncratic tendencies and lifestyle. We don't see him plotting and fantasizing, capturing and torturing. We are thankfully spared that long over used and abused scenario. The main character and threat here is the bayou itself. The hold it casts upon its inhabitants, it's a life force that can turn either way. You can feel its overbearing presence in the heavy predominance of long shots, the weight and stillness of the humidity, the wide open spaces that short cut to dead ends.

These detectives are caught within their own dark predicaments, in a land that can only exacerbate them, as they obsessively search for that which will offer but little release.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Five Che's

Photo: © S. Banos

When all the anti Castro, anti diplomacy, anti negotiation diehards protest against opening relations with Cuba because of their human rights violations, it sometimes gets me to wondering how hard they protest our own abuses right here at home... or if they're too busy making their way to buy cheap Chinese made goods at the local box store.

Friday, December 26, 2014

A Season Of Faith And Faithlessness...

Great little video, though I think it would have been better still minus the "faith plug" stuck in at end. While I most definitely believe in a higher power, the history of religion(s) preventing war and conflict throughout the world, and history is... well, let's just say they're a tad better at starting them; in fact, the case can actually be made that organized religions are also quite adept at making conflicts harder to solve.

I choose to place my trust in people whose faith comes in dealing directly with humanity: honestly, peacefully, without bias for god or country. Put your faith in that cause and one will follow in the best tenets of any major religion by default...

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Happy Homeless Savior Day!

Photo: © S. Banos

Happy Holidays- as many of us ready to celebrate, headed to the church of our choice, merrily navigating our way round those damned homeless we may encounter along the way, cussing the very sight of them, rejoicing when at distance. Needless nuisances marring our way to worship the birth of Our Lord and Savior, the homeless baby boy from the homeless family no one wanted any part of...

(Thanks, Bruce!)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

G.A.S. By Increment

Lately, I've been thinking of getting one of these: incredible image quality, compact as hell, and on sale! Actually, if I still lived in NYC, I probably would have pulled the trigger just to try out on the street- even though it provides absolute zero in the way of: physical, tactile, aesthetic connection. But Stan, for just a couple hundred more, you could pick up one of these: just a tad bigger with the same basic profile, but a whole lot better looking, an EVF, and interchangeable lenses. Hhmmm... But hell, if it's a system you're gonna go for, might as well just spend a few hundred more and go all out for the camera you really want with the money you don't have!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Fred Lyon

Photo: Fred Lyon

Certainly took me long enough (considering I live but a few blocks away), but I finally got to see the Fred Lyon exhibit at The Harvey Milk Photo Center, and I'm certainly glad I made the "effort," cause it was quite the unexpected treat! Mr. Lyon was a commercial photographer in San Francisco who also shot extensively on the streets of his hometown during the late forties, fifties and early sixties. His compositions betray a keen eye, and while one is rather reticent to make the comparison: the subject matter, time period and square format certainly bring to mind a West Coast version of Ms. Vivian Maier- although it's safe to say that their life styles were also miles apart and that he in no way approached his street environment with the single minded dedication and ferocity of Ms. Maier.

Nevertheless, his work is an absolute joy to behold! The prints, which I'm assuming are inkjets (confirmed) are gorgeous, and I have noticed that unlike their silver gelatin counterparts, inkjets printed in matte finish can really sing- as do these! Always great to see how these pioneers made work as eye catching as anything today, and without the technological advances so many of us can't seem to do without.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Long Live Film

Personally, I don't give the proverbial rat's ass what anyone shoots. I've never (really) been tempted to shoot digital simply because there were no digital cameras that appealed to me... until now. And since I can't afford what I want, I'm damn lucky that I do like shooting film- the look, the more deliberate process,  the satisfyingly more tactile feel from start to finish... Well, you can skip the darkroom part actually- romantic as hell (granted), but way too much pain and frustration on my part to get things just right (esp w/35mm). Despite its own trials and tribulations, scanning and digital post provide (in most cases) a very viable, hybrid option in the majority of instances.

Anyway, didn't know what to expect with this documentary, but since I am an avid film fan, was hoping for a fun ride... and let's just say it didn't start off well when the first guy up was sporting some silly ass hat thing that screamed pretentious (wannabe) hipster. You'd think by now that the last thing you'd want to portray film camera enthusiasts as is some subcult of pretentious  twenty year olds. And yet that's exactly how this documentary commences as we're presented with about a dozen twenty to thirty yr olds, all pretty much repeating the same thing in their own words, that film: looks different, slows one down and makes you concentrate more. True that, but...

Dang guys- if you want us to get excited about the medium, then ya gotta make the effort! Show us how film looks and feels different, show us the variations and results of different format analog cameras, show us just how tactile and sensuous they are compared to their amorphous, carbon composite, digital brethren. Let's see the the glistening chrome and hear the wondrous pop of a classic Hasselblad, make us feel the refined elegance of a Leica shutter and advance lever, the precision workmanship of a Rolleiflex;  make us revel in the tactile pleasure of wood, metal and leather, the joy of loading film. And how can you have a documentary dedicated to film and not even tease us with the magic and romance of the mystery called a darkroom? What the? Sure all this stuff is briefly alluded to, but... Show Us Goddamn It! You're supposed to be visual story tellers! You're certainly not gonna win any converts by endlessly repeating a three minute mantra. And it certainly wouldn't have hurt to include one or two actual masters of said medium, you know... old farts who have actually lived it their whole lives and have made the shit sing in ways these newbies are just starting to figure out.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Trust Us, We Lie For A Living

I don't know how anyone can say they have nothing to hide- if you believe in anything, they can use it against you.     
-Diane Roark

Whenever Obama or any national security official assures us that there are channels aplenty through which government whistle blowers can report their concerns of abuse or malfeasance within the system, all one needs do is utter the name Diane Roark to give testament to just how large a lie that really is, and always has been.

And why Edward Snowden did what he did, exactly how he did it...

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Thursday, December 11, 2014

America Is Awesome!

America's so awesome- we don't even know just how awesome we really are! We are like The MOST AWESOME people in all history...No One Can Get In The Way Of Our Complete And Utter Awesomeness! And if they ever even dream of trying- we'll force feed their sorry ass butts with ...
Non-Stop Awesomeness!!!  USA! USA!! USA!!!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Zabriskie Pt. Dilemma

Zabriskie Pt.;  Photo: © Stan Banos
Update: have inserted new & improved version since original posting.

Although I certainly don't go around combining negatives a la Eugene Smith, even this rudimentary snap is far from "straight." Taken at Death Valley just before a rather tumultuous thunderstorm complete with lightning and flash flooding, there was plenty to look at when I pressed the shutter, but the lighting was flatter than the flattest flat. No problem when you're shooting with a view camera that captures all the subtle tonal nuances and gradations, but when you're shooting 35mm, I knew it was gonna be one major problem galore long before I made the exposure, and didn't give it more than a fifty/fifty chance of seeing the "light of day." The first time I brought it up in PS, I went through the motions for 20 minutes, and it looked like my apprehension was well justified- couldn't do a damn thing with it. He was officially a goner...

Half a year later on a wet and dreary Sunday afternoon when I ain't going anywhere, I stumbled upon him once again. I'm no football fan, so... Take II. The only way I was going to win this formidable test of will was to patiently keep futzing around with the contrast and tonal values locally until they somehow gelled and approximated what I saw- or at least felt at the time. It took me the better part of a day (and then some), admittedly my PS (Elements 9) skills are absolute nominal (at best).

Had I attempted this in the darkroom, I would have emerged several days later, having wasted enough paper to fell yet another, entire old growth forest's worth of trees, kicked the cat, kicked the dog (if I had one), and given the wife more than ample reason to seek out a lawyer. And... have nothing of consequence for the effort!

The photo hints of an overcast sun highlighting the clouds and caressing the contours of the landforms- there was none, not even close. Nonetheless, dramatic they were! And a guy's gotta do, what a guy's gotta do...      

BTW-  It is dilemma- not dilemna...

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The People- Awakened!

Photo: Julio Cortez/AP
If there's one bright shining light that has come out of this police killer madness, it's that people of all colors have finally come out in numbers to Represent! And they are coming out united and en force! Human beings are being killed for no good reason, and it seems the sheer magnitude of this continuing injustice has finally struck the universal nerve. Years ago when Amadou Diallo was needlessly gunned down amidst a torrent of 41 gun shots, public response was sympathetic but minimal and mostly local, his but one of a long list of criminal killings involving police against people of color long before this latest onslaught.
Bigoted Whites can no longer point at Jesse and Big Al with their shrill claims of- there they go again, stirring things up, playing the race card! This mass outrage of humanity is from the ground up, and across the full spectrum of socio-economic-racial boundaries.
So it's with great pride that I congratulate the people of my hometown, who have acknowledged this murderous insanity, called it for what it is, and responded en masse from Harlem to Wall St., from the East Side to the West, from Staten Island and on to Brooklyn. It does a New Yorker good, and everyone proud who has marched in cities throughout America, and beyond. Only wish I could attend the march in DC next week...

Friday, December 5, 2014

Rogue Cops, Or Rogue Police Force(s)?

I do not believe time, nor training, will be able to change or correct the deficiencies.*

How crazy, outta control has this "rogue" cop phenomenon become, this phenomenon that reaches across cities large and small, and across state lines? Has it become so widespread that they are no longer referred to as rogue cops, and are now simply what we have come to expect? How is that those that are supposed to protect us are killing us, at least a certain significant faction of us, even when clearly unarmed?

An unarmed nineteen yr old dead in Missouri; an unarmed citizen in NY killed over cigarettes; an unarmed resident killed entering his building in Phoenix, an unarmed resident shot dead in the stairwell of his building (the officer calling his union rep before calling an ambulance); and finally, the cop who shot a twelve year old with a pellet gun. Now I might have cut the latter a little slack, fake guns can look like real guns- that possible empathy flew when it was learned that the officer responsible for the shooting was kicked off a previous police force for his utter incompetency... particularly when it came to dealing with his own gun!*

This is shear madness, madness in need of very real change and reform, change that would save lives and promote police and community trust and cooperation. Instead, after the current tsunami of police denial, we'll proceed with the usual makeovers- makeovers like the ones that permit choke holds, even after specifically banning choke holds (see below). And the killings murders will continue...

Was This Ever Read To The Grand Jury?

Go to 40:30 in the clip and listen to the official NYPD Patrol Guide- not only what it says about the use of choke holds, but what it then goes on to state about police who fail to stop fellow officers from using excessive force...

Thursday, December 4, 2014

NYPD Officially Banned Choke Holds 20 Years Ago...

Kinda, sorta, in a way- and definitely not so much that it still doesn't get used... enough to kill. At this point, it seems that police nationwide have clearly proclaimed (and society has sanctioned  by default) open season on African American males. All officers need do is quote the mantra: he resisted, came at me, reached for his waist, made a scary face...

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

It's All In The Name...

Photo: © S. Banos

It's over there, all the way to the right. No, it's not- it's straight ahead. Uh-uh, it's up there at 2 o'clock.
Ya sure it's not in that big ol' tarp in back?

Recently, during a period of extreme self examination (this is pretty much that time of year- is it not?), I set about tackling the age old question... why ain't I famous yet? Why am I not in every gallery, museum and private photography collection- when I so obviously deserve to?

So I set about examining this age old mystery, dissecting every possible raisonne de jour. Boundless talent- check; unrivaled originality- check; sheer, unbridled charisma- check, check and check! Stumped as I was, this time I pushed forward- this time, there would be no rest or retreat until I broke through the bonds that  would unleash me from my ill begotten anonymity...

The name! How on earth could I ever achieve photographic stardom with such obvious an impediment, such weighted albatross round yonder neck. As if the first name is not bad enough, I must endure a last name prominently displayed on the rest room door of every Hispanic restaurant in existence! Clearly, I had finally unearthed the very root of my life long dilemma- I needed a name worthy of my photographic pedigree.

First, I have to go by three names, two just don't make it, and Stanley Joseph Banos certainly does not make it. After several years of closely monitoring the names most often associated with photographic achievement, I hereby present and ask you to vote for my brand spanking new nome de guerre, the one destined to lead me to fame in 2015, the one that will forever inherit the riches and rewards of my well deserved photographic legacy:

Monday, December 1, 2014

If Ya Still Need A Reason...

Photo: Noah Addis

Still have your doubts, not quite convinced on why you should get on your freakin' knees and give thanks... Check out this illuminating essay by Noah Addis at Fraction mag.

When I first visited Europe in the early 80's, I was amazed to discover this foreign realm of the future where lights went on and off automatically as one entered and exited a room- a magical, logical land of the future I said to myself! Meanwhile, here in 21st USA we still unabashedly burn our office lights bright even when no one is to be seen on floor after floor...
So before ya start to yellin' at how other people are mucking up the world- just keep in mind the world's all time user and abuser of the world's resources...