Thursday, December 31, 2015

2016 and Beyond...

Photo: © S. Banos

No idea what 2016 will bring, no clue. Well, for the most part... what I do know sucks and sucks bad, like global climate change. As I write this the North pole is actually above freezing- in the middle of winter!!! And the fact that we still don't have any effective response or solution (besides partying in Paris) is certainly far from promising. In fifty years when a whole lot more Earth is underwater, and even more people need room to live- it's gonna make the Syrian refugee crisis look like a New Year's Rockin' Eve. Of course, I will have put down my film camera for quite some time by then...

The wife and I voluntarily celebrated a giftless Christmas this year, highly recommended for couples who already have everything and live in a rent stabilized 1BR in one of the most expensive cities in the country/world. We can attest to no lingering after effects. Actually, there is one thing I'm looking forward to this year, and that's self publishing what will more or less amount to a Greatest Hits Compilation (Part1)- this after all being The Golden Age of Photo Books. Or... not.

Of course, if you want to truly get noticed amidst today's plethora of (self) publishing wonders, one has to present not only a competent series of photographs, but a comprehensive "art" piece complete with all the doilies, nick knacks and other visual/sensory ephemera that make for the complete artistic experience. Actually, ain't got nothin' agin 'im, just that finances dictate this'll probably be your standard Blurb production- although will definitely have another look/see at what's out there. Regardless, I'm very much looking forward to putting it together. I already have a total of some fifty plus hi res scans (restorations and otherwise), and looking forward to making another 25 or so before getting a group of 40-50 in a final edit, hopefully some time next fall...

Been very much looking for a photo book to get for some time, so glad to report that I finally found and am ordering Gus Powell's The Lonely Ones. I particularly like the small size and that the photos embiggen when you fold out the pages- a thoughtful extra step that not only supplies additional acreage for one's viewing pleasure, but also purposely forces one to slow down and... actually look at the photograph itself (the latter becoming a lost art in itself)! Meanwhile....

Happy New Year!

PS- And one more thing... to the 50+ organizations sending me emails asking, demanding and pleading for $$$- wish it so folks, but you're asking the wrong guy, (ie- barking up the wrong tree). Capisce? I give a few bucks to MSF and Amnesty Int- case closed. Rule #1- Don't expect money from people who make considerably less than you...

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Remembering The Fall Of Rome (And It's Batshit Crazy Leaders)

As a kid I always wondered how mighty, kick ass Rome pretty much allowed itself to fall apart and rot from within as the barbarians trolled the gates. Of course, once you start reading just how insane its Caesars really were, you soon start asking yourself- just how was it that Rome managed to survive as long as it did?

Of course, our modern, interconnected world experiences everything at a considerably accelerated rate. And I have been amazed at what this country has been able to endure just in my lifetime, including a President who (while definitely not insane), at least kinda knew he was dumber than a rock in some round about, dry drunk kinda way- and didn't give a damn how many people lost their lives in his little macho military fantasies. Now we got someone running who not only doesn't have the slightest clue, but who actually thinks himself more intelligent than all human life combined. And even scarier, if such a scenario is even plausible (and it is)- there are people who actually think believe he is, while others simply revel in the fact that he'll forever be the ever lovin' dick that he truly is... (just like them- except w/o his $).

Civilizations in the final stages of decay are dominated by elites out of touch with reality.
          -Christopher Hedges

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Good Riddance 2015...

Photo: © S. Banos

Probably worst year of my life. The year I discovered, much to my dismay, that my photographic 'legacy' had been substantially compromised. Fortunately, many if not most of those images can be digitally restored, thanks to the 'magic' that is Photoshop (and the long man hours required of each that very much ain't). Have already successfully completed some twenty-five 65MB restorations- otherwise, I may very well have taken that proverbial long walk off a short pier. Just another 300+ to go...

And if I didn't have the handful of images as proof, I'd probably overlook the fact that I actually purchased a Fujifilm XT-1, my very first foray into the digital imaging world; one undeniably gorgeous, little camera, and most capable performer (as was the amazing 14mm Fujinon). I anticipated we would bond immediately. Alas! The finder is amazing in low light, great in open shade, but in direct sunlight/contrasty lighting- adequate, at best (and it's supposedly the preeminent EVF out there)! Still, if I shot color like most everyone, I would have kept it all the same for its stunning results. But being the B&W kinda guy that I've become, still didn't like the results it delivered in... direct sunlight; and it's the latter that most profoundly reveals just how different an animal B&W digital truly is. It can recover incredible shadow detail, but there's something in the highlight gradations that just... fall... short. Don't bother me with the physics, and the curves, and the charts- already have something (called film) that delivers the look and feel I want. And I already got more than enough work to do (see: Para.1), than struggle to make due with something that only approximates what I call home. Maybe I'll give the digital realm another go round 2020 (or not)... till then, my F3, FM3A and Tri-X will suffice.

What can't be undone or ameliorated however, is my father's diagnosed dementia. That assault and robbery is not only non negotiable, but ongoing. Another sad and sorry aphorism: a train wreck in slow motion. And neither faith nor technology will halt that inevitable descent. As recently as the previous year when he could still reason and function logically at 90, he said without fear or anxiety that he had led a full life and was ready to go- lingering is what he dreaded most.

What possible life lesson is to be learned when one can no longer remember, let alone understand? What life debt are you possibly balancing when you can no longer even conceive the equation?

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Because We're Stupid

Not stupid because we didn't understand exactly how the banks were conducting business, it was made purposely too complex for us to understand. No one can be faulted for that. Stupid because once they were finally exposed, finally exposed bare and naked and clean for all to see just how longingly and lovingly they were fucking us up the ass each and every day, we chose to... 

1.) Allow them to be rescued with our money,

2.) Demand no accountability whatsoever,

3.) Blame exactly who they told us to blame ("poor people, teachers and immigrants"), and-

4.) Smile as we continue to let them fuck us each and every day, to this very day!

The beauty and genius that was Jon Stewart and The Daily Show was that they broke down complex (and often boring) social, political and economic issues into logical, easy to understand bits and pieces that were... goddamn funny to boot. The Big Short does much the same, and does so brilliantly, covering the financial meltdown that happened under our watch (Anthony Bourdain explains CDOs, Salena Gomez breaks down synthetic CDOs)- and that continues unpunished and unrepentant, however disguised, as you read this.

But, hey, it's Christmas- grab the eggnog and a warm blanket; you can kick the dog when you're hungover after New Year's. 

PS- Oh... And when someone with a big, self satisfied smirk demands you explain just how the government could ever possibly keep a secret as overwhelmingly HUGE as UFO's under lock and key for soooo damn long- kindly just remind them that... it's all so easy, when we're the ones who do it for them; aliens are small potatoes indeed, compared to knowingly letting them rob us blind each and every day of our hard earned $$$...

Just try not to roll your eyes when you tell them.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Still Waiting...

I started the year more than a little anxious to buy two upcoming photo books... and here we are at year's end- and they have yet to materialize in the public domain! I'm referring to Joakim Eskildsen's American Realities and Ryann Ford's The Last Stop

Something to look forward to in 2016, beyond the the coming year's now requisite mass slaughters...

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Season's Greeetings!

Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore's (R) interpretation of Matthew 5:5.

Currently clocking in at about 40% of capacity from my most recent loss to the flu (think Rousey/Holms, the extended version), I was aching to return to normal society- but alas, that feeling for human vitality and normalcy were cut short with last week's insanity. A sickening, deadening insanity that has metastasized into what now flauntingly mocks normalcy. Ignorance, fear and neglect begetting a violence so mindless that it in turn erodes the sanity and response of those of good will still remaining. So we never address the root cause(s), never attempt to dialogue, never ever dare to even consider a reset.

It's so easy to point at those 'dumb' kids shooting hell outta each other in every inner city in this country. They never learn, it's just their lot- just don't dare make same said and simple observation when it comes to the world at large... the one adults roam and rule.

So we will continue to threaten and arm ourselves for: prevention, protection, retaliation. Our planet is dying all around us, but not to worry: kick back with your Big Gulp, Supersize that Happy Meal, and make sure ya got enough hollow points to outlast your fries- You're Good To Go!!!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

-Out Sick-

Photo: © S. Banos

Third freakin' winter in a row I've gotten the flu, and as in each year prior, it's royally kicking my ass asunder! I've never bothered getting the flu vaccine since it's always concocted for the previous year's version- it just doesn't make sense! 

Then again- can't do any worse than I'm doing now... back to bed.

Thursday, November 26, 2015


Lies, Lies, Lies... Very popular these days. On the news, the internets, the mouths of the pettiest of Presidential candidates. As true now as it was then- make them big enough, repeat them often enough... and people will fall in line to follow.

Not as loud, or convenient or as popular, there are always the facts. And for that, we can always give thanks, thanks for that increasingly rare opportunity to glimpse through the window of sanity...

Sunday, November 22, 2015

As I Pressed The Shutter...

Photo: © S. Banos

I remember thinking- would I be comfortable having a beer with a guy who has giant tattoos of a penis, spermatozoa and varied amounts of weights and ornaments about his genitalia? Not your average thought, agreed. Nevertheless, the one that sprung to mind. And must say, the guy definitely seemed a nice enough bloke. What would we talk about: sports, the demise of the gold standard, the coming El Nino?

It's all very much part of the annual experience called The Folsom St. Fair in San Francisco. You're walking about everyday streets that are cordoned off into a temporary and separate reality, one to which you never quite adjust while there, and for some time thereafter...

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Status Update

Jander Yat- Photo: Robert Gumpert

Pete Brook recently informed me of his co-curated group exhibit: Status Update. Hadn't seen anything worthwhile up close and personal in months, and happily, this didn't disappoint- not one weak link in the entire show. Robert Gumpert's prison portraits (go to Take A Picture, Tell A Story for some seriously devastating, one-two combinations of portraits/oral histories), and Elizabeth Lo's tightly edited, well executed video were my two personal faves. I can't ever say enough about the simplicity and power of Gumpert's portraiture, and Lo's short video, Hotel 22, just took me by surprise with it's oh so revealing tale of a mobile 'homeless shelter' shuttling about one of the most prosperous strips of American realty. This is one show that seriously needs to be seen, heard and discussed in much larger public venues, throughout the country...

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Photo Essay Waiting To Be Done...

Had I the $, I'd jump in the car (I don't have) and hit the road for a few years to photograph these places, one sick name at a time... I hope someone with the resources and necessary sensitivity does just that!

Meanwhile, to see what could be possible from such an undertaking - Eva Leitlolf's work is somewhat of a similar vein (and sets one very high standard).

Monday, November 2, 2015

10 Ways To Lose At Street Photography

I didn't win, no surprise there. I've been doing this for forty years, during which I certainly haven't been allowed to obtain or nurture an exaggerated view of myself or my work. I know my place as a very small fish in a very big pond... but to say that not one of my photos was worthy of being displayed in your selected 176- That's one major crock of shit piled high.*
Yours truly,
Stan B.

I've been posting on my competition rejections for some time- so why quit now? The above is my most recent response to my most recent exercise in self debasement and humiliation, this time at the hands of the street photography competition sponsored by Lens Culture. Now they usually show some pretty good stuff there, so I knew the competition would be stiff. But I thought I had ten really strong images (see below), you can fault them for not following a strict narrative, granted- but isn't the street itself the perfect tableau for all things incongruent and unpredictable? So I figured if I got lucky I just might make it to the finals (and then be rejected outright for lack of cohesion- fair enough), but I figured I would at least garner some kind of minimal recognition... like being selected for one of the 176 images used during the campaign to promote the competition itself. 

The work within those 176 images range from some of the actual (and very deserving) winners to... work that amounts to well exposed snapshots- and I certainly don't mean of the William Eggleston variety. Now I understand competitions are mostly just a matter of taste, current convention, etc, etc at best (and that's when they're run on the up and up- and I'm certainly not saying that this wasn't) and that those chosen 176 don't necessarily amount to a hill of beans- but if people are paying $65 for the privilege of being judged, they at least deserve to be judged fairly and evenly- throughout the competition

Disappointed? Of course. Sour grapes? I just think that respectable competitions should strive to be just that- from start to finish, particularly when you're paying more than a nominal fee. I have, in fact, previously written (as constructively as possible) on how various competitions have succeeded (or failed) to do just that  (see here and here). Stan, did you ever think that some of your "street" photography may qualify more as "environmental portraiture?" The thought did occur, but one of the actual finalists in this competition submitted an essay on life in an isolated Indian hamlet- it's definitely documentary, as to "street" photography.... go figure!

Anyway, congrats to the winners, running a competition is not easy (even in my limited experience co-editing ExNo) and very much to their credit, Lens Culture does, in fact offer a concise "review" of individual submissions for those who paid $65- something quite valuable for those starting out. As for me, well, that $65 will go nicely toward a new photo book come next year- could even be one of my own, for which I am currently editing.

* It should be noted that Lens Culture was gracious enough to reply recently, stating that the contest was subjective, etc, etc...Not the greatest response, and certainly lacking the all out creative ingenuity of this one- but still appreciated.

And now for the much anticipated 10 ways to lose:

Times Square Photo: © Stan Banos

Bay Bridge Photo: © Stan Banos

Brooklyn Photo: © Stan Banos

Folsom Fair Photo: © Stan Banos

Comic Con Photo: © Stan Banos

LIC Photo: © Stan Banos

Williamsburg bridge Photo: © Stan Banos

Golden Gate Bridge Photo: © Stan Banos

Brooklyn Bridge Photo: © Stan Banos

SFPD Photo: © Stan Banos

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Getting It Wrong/Getting It Right

Before we get into what's wrong, lemme just say that that's one of the most rare and truthful statements you'll ever hear uttered in any photographic art forum. So... who am I to call out these photographic greats on what I perceive to be major lapses in their artistic judgement? The same guy who has justly praised and admired them on many another occasion- does that make me right when it comes to the former? No. But at least, it shows I ain't carrying a grudge (sorry, Cindy).

Paul Graham- Films

Like anyone else, artists, and photographers sometimes get it wrong, really wrong- and to be fair, it comes with the territory. The quote above comes from a piece that centered in part on Paul Graham and the wave of photographic experimentation he's ridden the latter part of his career. I've commented previously on what I thought of his experimentation: the overexposed prints, the shots before and after what may or may not have been "the decisive moment," the entire book on... close ups of grain! And it all just strikes me as something every photographer contemplates, experiences and yes, comes to terms with in the field or in the darkroom, as they become knowledgeable with the art, the process, the craft. We study and learn how over and under exposure affect not only the finished print, but our emotional empathy as well; how timing is so crucial and critical to composition and meaning; yes, we've even considered the effect of grain. Does that mean we can't play with it further, of course not- but then, by all means show us something... new! Eamonn Doyle showed us a gorgeous "new" take on street photography utilizing the most basic of visual elements (a different viewpoint, literally)- not so unlike what some guy called Graham did when he first used color to document the social landscape.

Bruce Davidson- E.100st.

Another guy that "recently" came to mind is none other than one Garry Winogrand. My ears certainly perked up on that video as he took none other than Bruce Davidson to task for undertaking- "a personal misunderstanding" of Diane Arbus. He was particularly referring to E100st., the seminal photographic work which he also insinuated he had no business photographing since the subjects were of a different social, economic and cultural background. The thought of Davidson doing a bad copy, or some kind of wayward Arbus homage is truly beyond ludicrous. All due respect (love the guy), but... one really has to wonder what far flung region of his anus ol' Garry conjured that Arbus analogy from. His second criticism is one that definitely merits discussion- particularly in a day and age when we have photographers running "workshops" during major catastrophes. Except, of course, that Davidson is amongst the least exploitative photographers one can possibly name. His respect for his subject matter is always forefront- or as one photographer of color said a few decades back on this very topic, "Damn, argue what you want- I just wish I could have done as good a job as he did!"

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Glass Key In A Modern Landscape

Recently dropped by Glass Key Photo here on the Lower Haight in San Francisco and was both happy and relieved to see that they very much appear to be thriving. This is a small "mom and pop" type affair (ie- not your usual corporate, conglomerate retail photo enterprise) that consists of a small but well stocked, second hand, film camera store complete with various format bodies and lenses in good cond and at very reasonable prices, along with paper, chemicals, film and other accessories... in addition to housing a rather nice gallery space.

Consummate gear hound that I am (needed a body cap), I came upon a small crowd ogling, handling and yes, purchasing a variety of bodies, lenses, etc- and these were majority twenty somethings. Make all the hipster remarks you want, but if these are the people to keep film alive well into the coming decades- more power to them, cuz us geezers only have so many years left. Anyway, it was nice to see things coming along- not to mention catch the exhibit by Marissa Rocke.

Raccoon, Washington Township, Pennsylvania by Marissa Rocke from Modern Landscape

Modern Landscape offers an unsentimental though touching view of various road kill portraits taken on Ms. Rocke's travels. While some appear blissfully asleep, others are obviously in various degrees of decay and disarray- but curiously manage to retain some semblance of beauty, grace and dignity. And having a quality show to look at definitely makes for a complete experience!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Fantasy, Reality & A Few Bits In Between...

 A little levity for the masses...

Yes, things have been pretty quiet 'round these parts; ya know what they say- no news is good news. I was recently saddened to hear the ongoings at B&H, I had done business with them for decades and it was heartening to see a multi hued, multi ethnic sea of faces whenever I visited. Sadly, it does not appear all is at it seems... Cheap prices, come at a price and it's always interesting to hear how many people just don't give a rat's ass as long as they get a few bucks off their L lenses (and don't have to work in their far from public view warehouses). Not gonna rehash everything I said there, but the issues raised accurately encapsulate modern economics, prejudice and society as a whole.

Elsewhere, elephants continue to be slaughtered- forget the solitary big game assholes, I'm talking the wholesale slaughter for the continuing Asian market in ivory. And forget the glaciers, the tundra is now melting as we continue to mindlessly plunge this earth headfirst into the abyss, blissfully ignoring we seal our own fate as we do so...

Whatever photographs do survive into the next century will serve as bleak testament to a memory of how people happily carried on as the signs of the planet's demise danced all about them. They will view them with curiosity, longing, and utterly justifiable rage.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Barefoot, Tech Savvy and Fancy Free

Photo: © S. Banos

Like others, I too am intrigued by extremes, extremes of: technology, beauty, power, money, intelligence... The latter has always particularly fascinated me since so many people can be so smart about some things, and so terribly, terribly daft about others. I'm not the brightest bulb around, but I can shed a fair share of light on some of life's concerns large and small- on others, I'm good for 2 watts, literally. Most people are like that, some measure of balancing act to one extent or another. Some have not only aspired to, but have even become President using only those 2 watts!

Yes, W proved you don't have to be a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon to be President. But this guy tops that, this guy is beyond that, this guy I cannot fathom or make sense of to any degree, in any fashion. Just what dear lord, does one possibly make of a goddamn 100% legit and actual... Brain Surgeon- a brain surgeon who repeatedly comes up with the dumbest, most moronic, most incredibly stupid comments imaginable!? I've never witnessed anything like this my entire life. Ben Carson, as a doctor, has the power to access, influence and control the most intricate biology on earth governing human thought and... intelligence. And yet, as a human, he cannot rise beyond a simple buffoon.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Blog/Restoration Update

Photo: @ S. Banos

Yes, I know I said I was quitting ye olde blog this past spring; no, it was not yet another idle threat/cry for attention. I really did need to stop, unsure what the future held- except that I did need to concentrate on restoring the remains of my work, and attend to various family matters. Blogging was nowhere on the list and had become a burden I was quite relieved to unburden...

Fortunately, with a dozen restorations (65 MB files) under my belt, I now feel fairly confident I can restore the vast majority of my work. The remaining 10% or so are probably still reclaimable, waiting for my PS skills to improve or for restoration experts to happily volunteer their remaining days for the sake of art and humanity. Meanwhile, my main restorative kit consists of: patience, more patience, and a heapin', helping shitload of yet more (patience).

I can average one restoration about every 4-5 days, about 4-5 hrs per day (rough approx). Some take considerably longer, but little by little, pixel by pixel, they're getting done- to exhibition quality standards. Of course, one can't keep that pace up on a regular indefinite basis, particularly in one's "spare" time. Work, the family matters I've previously alluded too, and all the other crap life throws one's way have a habit of getting in the way. Sometimes, I now even enjoy throwing up the occasional blog post minus the voluntarily set schedule to adhere to as before; so do come round from time to time...

A coupla years down the line, I should have enough to self publish something to show it hasn't all been in vain  (already got a working title); and hopefully, before I get to call it a day, I should have a body of work that will testify to a life lived a few fractions of a second at a time- for laughs, for kicks, for the simple satisfaction that someone simply... noticed.

Friday, September 25, 2015

You Can Observe A Lot By Just Watching...

I'm not as much drawn to sports as when considerably younger, but even then, I was particularly drawn to those who transcended their sport, who exhibited signs of life beyond their sport, those who either impacted life head on like an Ali, or simply displayed a certain sense of irony or humor as in the case of Yogi Berra (to whom one can attribute the quote above).

And speaking of astute observations, particularly when it comes to life and its passing moments on the streets we tread daily, the name of photographer Cristophe Agou most certainly comes to mind- a good tribute here.

Thanks, and RIP guys...

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Digital vs. Analog

I had the biggest laugh of the day while shaving the other morning and first hearing about Volkswagen's special emissions reduction software that works only when... being tested for emissions. Brilliant! 

Reminds me of the time when Hyundai had to cut the weight of their cars in order to meet US gas mileage standards. Solution: take the stuffing out of their fenders. Classic!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Deny, Deny, Deny...

Now imagine, just imagine.. if people watched this video and just said, "Dang! I never knew that!" It could cause some people to stop, reflect and... possibly even think. But uh-uh, that's not happening- that thinking part's for losers! Deny-Deny-Deny... and call people a few names while you're at it.

It's the exposure, it's the lighting... it's the fact that I simply refuse to believe, evidence be damned, that they purposely skewed the film chemistry to benefit lighter skin tones- and anyone who believes that is an (anti-White) racist!

PS- And if (just saying if now) it was done, then it was strictly for economic reasons to best serve their main demographic- that's just good business sense!
PPS- Exactly, like... slavery, just business.

"In the last decade it has become clear to those who seek out this information that the chemistry for stock colour film for still cameras was designed originally with a positive bias for "Caucasian" skin tones because of its high level of reflectivity. (Personal interviews with multiple chemists and film designers at Kodak, Rochester, NY, 1995; Winston, 1985, 1996)."

"It was also believed at the time that physics was physics, chemistry was chemistry, and science was based on reasoned decisions without consideration of cultural or racial subtleties. It is now becoming acknowledged more widely within the industry that refinements to the chemistry of film emulsions have never been issues of physics or chemistry exclusively, but have been the result of cultural choices as well."   -Prof. Lorna Roth

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Donald Mussolini

Professionals with a lot more experience, who are paid a helluva lot more than me, have somehow yet to make the most obvious of obvious comparisons. The boasts, the posturing, the smirking disdain, absolute arrogance and utter disregard for anything resembling the truth; all so frighteningly  parallel and irrefutable, despite the disparities of time, ethnicity and  geographical location. 

And yet, in this age when we may repeat the same said mistake, with the same sad and sorry said consequences-  I have yet to see this most relevant of comparisons...  anywhere.

Chris Hedges- "Civilizations in the final stages of decay are dominated by elites out of touch with reality."

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

American (Non)Jurisprudence

Monday morning before work I was hit with a double dose of how monumentally insane our court system in these Semi-United States has become. One video lays out how utterly and completely fucked you are if you are poor (a lawyer will be provided for you- for say... 7 minutes); the other describes just how determined the judicial system can be to guarantee they kiss your ass into eternity- no matter what the evidence says...

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Bruce Almighty!

Photo: Bruce Gilden
Photo: Bruce Gilden
Been a fan of Bruce Gilden's for quite some time, but even I was somewhat taken aback by some of his most recent offerings via his color Face portraits. They almost seem a cartoonish caricature of his earlier work. Has he finally crossed the fine line he's always tread between borderline art-shock and what the hell, pull the plug freak out? And just where is that ever moving, fine line located? Where was it drawn in modern music: the "race music" appropriated by Elvis, the Beatles' long hair, the polysexual costume excess of glamrock, or the NSFW lyrics of Hip Hop?

Face draws you in like a bad car accident ("like ruin porn, fascinating for five minutes," said one commenter); has Gilden now fully embraced shock value for its own sake- or are we the ones doing the dehumanizing by further reducing these images, and therefore the people they portray, to the likes of a car accident? 

This ain't a critique on the images themselves, which I admittedly am somewhat ambivalent about. And isn't that one of the hallmarks of great art, that which divides, shocks and more importantly- makes us think?  This is not so much about "Gilden, right or wrong," but about the reactions he so willingly (and knowingly) creates. Indeed, the comments to this article are well worth more than the original piece itself... all 476 of them!

Unfortunately, many of the commenters believe that Gilden turned his subjects into freakish ghouls and freaks via Photoshop, when in fact, the distortion they speak of came mostly through the use of a short lens used up close and personal with direct flash. Some are not only mistaken about how he achieved his results, but even go unto producing a bit of revisionist photo history to back up their claims. More than one comment tells us of how Arbus not only covered this ground previously, but also did it in a more openly emphatic manner that both humanized and endeared her subjects to us all. One commenter actually stated that at least "Arbus photographed them as they wanted to be posed." Really? I suppose none of that particular crowd ever read how she was roundly criticized for objectifying and dehumanizing her subjects!

And while many, if not most found his portraiture "obscene" or "robbed of humanity," others found it quite beautiful indeed- "can't help but notice how beautiful the eyes of his subjects are." More than one found them a most welcomed relief from the "orange blobs with teeth" that so many celebrity portraits look like today. Kim Kardashian's visage frequently came up as the modern day icon of a photographically manipulated freak.

Some seemed completely oblivious to the obvious lens distortion, swearing that these are what these people actually look like, and I have to wonder if at least some of those espousing Mr. Gilden's refreshingly warts and all look are also happy that while it's good we have people that look like that, they are also quite relieved to not be one of them.

Some savvy commenters noticed that while Sean O'Hagan's article stated that Mr. Gilden had obtained releases for his subject's photos, he failed to state if they were obtained before or after they actually saw the results. That wouldn't have particularly spoken as to their relevancy as works of art, but perhaps more to the integrity of the photographer himself. Either way, Gilden definitely doesn't give a flyin'. Question is, are his images strictly predatory and abusive- and if so, are we being superficial for liking them, or just as superficial for dismissing them offhand... One of the second hallmarks of great art is how much it reveals about ourselves.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


Photo: © S. Banos

A) Separated form the herd, battery depleted, instinct would somehow have to take over.

B) Banned from high tech data mining, the NSA would now have to rely on more basic forms of cunning and deception, camouflage proved primitive but effective.

C) Conservative Family Values Advocate and Ashley Madison account holder Josh Duggar arranges nearby tryst despite...

D) Deposed Ashley Madison CEO Noel Biderman concedes...

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Hubbard's Lament

There's a lot that Ms. Hubbard gets right here, a considerable amount she also disregards or glosses over. Of course, White folk will be cheering this on as righteous affirmation that everything they say and believe is absolutely true, case closed- while the facts, and the truth are so infinitely more nuanced. 

As an inner city teacher of adolescents who were officially classified as "Extremely Emotionally Disturbed & Socially Maladjusted," one quickly observed and realized (again- depending if one had both eyes open) that there was blame aplenty to go around on all sides: parents (or lack thereof), school teachers and administrators, clergy, police, and even the children themselves... yes, society as a whole from the President on down. Plenty of blame- and plenty of reasons. The latter are often shoved aside or conveniently ignored, the former usually short or one sided, and the solutions ranging from ineffective, to non existent.

You can't effectively address, confront or attempt to remedy this madness of spiraling crime and violence without effectively including all sides concerned. And so much of the insanity that occurs within the inner city is a direct result of what occurs (or doesn't occur) far outside it. First and foremost, if there are no jobs to be had in the hood, then you pretty much have to give people the credit for creating them- and you know where those self made jobs are going to be... cue in: drugs, guns and death. Also see: the never ending cycle of crime, incarceration and despair that doesn't just suck in individual lives, but entire generations. What use are good decent schools in the inner city (when they do exist) if there are no institutions of higher learning that are affordable; and ultimately, if there are no jobs or opportunities to be had for all that desperately need and want them- not just for the handful that somehow manage to succeed beyond every and all possible obstacles!

Yes, it's easy to blame individuals for lack of personal responsibility, and individuals certainly must take responsibility- but how can anyone be expected to succeed in a society that has given up on them and cast them aside, looking their way only when the situation inevitably arises to cast blame, and accusation... or as a possible source of personal revenue in one of the few growth industries left in the country- the prison industrial complex.

Education is not held in very high esteem by much of "minority" youth, often it's looked upon more as a sad joke than anything else, something for other people with lighter skin in another world where they don't have bullets buzzing by their heads. Those scant few grants and scholarships, and those far fetched possibilities cannot protect you from the violence all around you each and every day.

Cops are not concerned with societal cause and effect, they want to go home in one piece to their nice peaceful neighborhoods where some measure of hope and sanity can still be salvaged. They don't have any skin in the game other than their own, "Protect and Serve" starts and ends with them.

So yes, Peggy, it's a goddamn shame that little girl was killed by one of her own, and the idiot that died by the gun (like so many others, before and after in his circumstances) got what he gave; but you really should know that TV's talking heads wouldn't have covered her death anyway, and countless others just like her. They both died statistics, together in their separate world.

This madness is all consuming, it sucks the very life out of you even if you survive it. Every inner city is a little Iraq and Afghanistan where PTSD runs rampant at every age and every household. To succumb to a one sided blame game is both very human, and very understandable. Ultimately, it just continues to perpetuate and conceal the very madness it so inadequately seeks to address.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

(Way!) Long Overdue Tech!

Bet people would have been salivating just to stand in line for a chance to buy this simple piece of low budget, common sense tech back in the day. Don't have the need to use one anytime soon myself- only question is... Why'd it take so freakin' long!?!?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Diary Of A Teenage Girl

No moralizing here, we're watching this develop from the mind of a fifteen year old girl who wants to grow up fast, and finds herself ensnared in a world she cannot possibly begin to understand or fathom- not that any of us can at any age. And Diary of a Teenage Girl does a bang up job of showing just how confusing, hypocritical and thoroughly maddening adults have made this world we live in, and in so doing, defy our offspring to do better.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Return Of The (Analog) Prodigal

Photo: © S. Banos

Alas, my ever so brief, ever not so torrid, middle aged, digital affair has reached its natural conclusion- and fortunately without regret, despite the fact that it did not achieve its intended consequence... becoming my go to, do everything, photographic imaging device from now till...

Photo: © S. Banos

The Fujifilm XT-1 is one very beautiful, very capable performer; truth is, it can do it all- but its strengths do not particularly suit my needs, and to be fair, its one major weakness is shared by all mirrorless cameras of its ilk- namely, its much touted EVF, which constantly reminded me of a '60s era color TV. Fine in the shade, better in the dark- but mediocre at very best in sunlight, changing or contrasty lighting situations. If I was a color aficionado, I would probably just shut up and persevere, the resulting images being that good. And it was fun seeing a few color images after decades of B&W.

But novelty fades and I'm back in my monochrome world of reality, and you can't beat starting out with the image qualities you desire most in film from the get go- rather than struggling to replicate them to one degree or another in post. If I could afford it, I'd be tempted to keep it, despite my vow to simplify. That said, I will definitely miss its quiet stealth, low light capability and 1:1 crop, but I'll continue to get what I require most from what I've already used for millennia. When the EVF looks as good as the LCD on the rear of the camera, I may just have another look see- in the meantime, it's on to eBay...

Photo: © S. Banos

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Stanford Prison Experiment

A few observations on The Stanford Prison Experiment:

1) First, the age old truism of what can happen when ya give someone a uniform.

2) How closely the study environment resembled a real life prison- and how true to life the accompanying results mimicked real life prison culture (in just 6 days), from Attica to Abu Ghraib.

3) How big a dick Dr. Philip G. Zimbardo was at the time for allowing himself to become so personally involved in the study and not conducting the "experiment" as an actual scientific experiment, so that his research and conclusions would be beyond reproach.

4) How easy it is to create a Nazi (see #1)- although can't help but think had the study been done with some say... students from NYC (rather than the burbs of CA), the "prisoners" would have been considerably more rebellious- though with probably similar results, considerably faster.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

My Not So Torrid, Middle Aged, Digital Fling

After decades of rigorously maintained analog self control and moderation, the very first chance I got a little extra change in my pocket, I immediately made a play for the young hot bod housed in the petite looker known as the Fujifilm XT-1 (complete w/14mm). The mere sight of her drove me crazy with desire- all those buttons and dials to press and caress amidst her tight young curves... OK- Enuf.
Love those muted greens.   All Photos: © S. Banos

Yes, the XT-1 can deliver the goods, it has also driven me half crazy getting to know it. The first few days were absolutely maddening- pressing every wrong button for every wrong reason (purposely and accidentally). We're a tad more acquainted now, starting to respect each other's space and preferences. Still, there is a very palpable tension between us...

The main drawback remains the EVF which may be the best out there, but still looks like a vintage era color TV from the '60s if you ask me. It's especially annoying in changing, contrasty light, as well as sunlight, where seeing what's in the shadows is particularly difficult- particularly ironic since one thing this camera can do is render shadow detail extraordinary well! The body is superbly compact but that also causes one to push things one doesn't want to- at least I'm getting familiar with how to undo it. 

Did notice slight shutter lag for high speed action shots.

I came back from my initial real life, field test (see results) fully prepared to put it up for sale on eBay. It hadn't been a fun experience, and had really missed my Nikon analogs. If there's no joy in the actual experience- what is there? Case closed. But before I got to actually packaging the camera away, I decided to take a look at said photos, and... First, there were the colors (and you must understand that except for a literal handful of SX-70 shots, I have not shot color since 1978), some lovely reds and muted greens- Wow! And it complemented the compositions, it wasn't just filler. OK, fine- but back to reality, I still wanted to know how it performed as a tool for B&W. I completed my first B&W conversion, and it came out... OK. Amazingly, while the color corrections took mere minutes, it was still a slow drive getting the local tonalities in B&W down pat (although selections were easier). But in the end, it still had that plasticky digital look- it needed.... grain. It had to have grain to feel "real." Fake grain for authenticity, Stan? Really? Yes, it's one slippery slope...

The self professed "King of  Pain." Yes, that is a taser. Yes, that is a (very) sensitive area.

I had read how grain software was pretty awful at best, but reluctantly went ahead and... I've been looking at 35mm Tri-X grain for decades, and this fake shit looked looked pretty damn good to me. Scanning B&W negs somewhat exaggerates grain, so I didn't pump it up as much (the grain software can be infinitely massaged or intensified) as it appears on my scans, gave it more a Plus-X feel- but it was enough to soothe the craving, and rid the image of its digital curse. It had achieved the look and feel of B&W film.

Relationships- they need constant work and attention.

So is everything copacetic? Not really, I may still sell it. Or I may sell all my analog film stuff to finance 28 and 40mm equivalents. I honestly don't know right now, but I can't afford to keep both. The film cameras are fun, simplicity and ease in the field- they can also last me a lifetime. The digital is more a working tool with various perks, like getting color & B&W (and a 1:1 crop) on demand. It's definitely not a one night stand, I just don't know if we're ready to commit just yet.

Friday, July 31, 2015

The Trump Coward Family

No matter how much money I've inherited and made on the backs of others- I'm still a little shit... And look- I can prove it!!!

I have nothing against hunters who actually eat what they kill- I'd be some kinda hypocrite otherwise, since I eat meat. As far as these Big Bawanas who wanna prove how big theirs are by shooting defenseless animals for... sport are concerned- if you want to prove your manhood with a gun, there's many a government sanctioned organization that will happily send you off where you can "be all that you can be." But these Trumps, Nugents and lying dentists are just cowards to the core.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Detroit Unbroken Down- Dave Jordano

Photo: Dave Jordano

The first thing one notices upon viewing this book is that it is unquestionably a labor of love. Mr. Jordano loves Detroit, and loves its people- as do they, despite all its faults, disappointments and dangers. One hears and sees little else but the latter anywhere anyone looks. Detroit Unbroken Down reminds us all that there are real people living there, beyond the ruin porn, gangstas and chosen downtown elite. Ordinary people desperately trying to live decent lives in a man made island of neglect and disrepair within the world's most powerful nation.

Photo: Dave Jordano

These portraits of people and community do not focus on the down and out, but neither are they feel good rainbows and unicorns. These Motor City denizens live a reality from which so many of its former residents fled unapologetically; yet, there they remain, refusing to give up and succumb, if only because they don't have the luxury of fleeing. If nothing else, these photographs remind us of that.

Photo: Dave Jordano

Photo: Dave Jordano

Friday, July 24, 2015

Losing One's Voice

Don't know if the movie was all that great, but the content sure was, and her talent was as real and rare as it ever gets. I didn't know Amy Winehouse from shit while alive, by the time I found out who she was, she had already become the mumbling, fumbling, public butt of jokes; and that is, I must confess, how I happened upon her. A joke, a sham, a vapid publicity stunt gone terribly wrong.

Truth is, she was an exceptionally rare talent with a gift that comes along only once in several generations. Most recording artists artists in general must strain to get every last ounce of whatever talent they possess to make themselves shine and be counted. Amy's voice was an absolute force of nature, she had to corral and tame its sheer brilliance. And she could do so with surprising ease and regularity. I have to go back to a young Aretha to think of someone who actually had to restrain their voice of its own natural intensity, a voice that could just wail seemingly of its own accord and volition. She didn't have the Biblical soul of Aretha, but the subtle intonations she delivered were nothing short of magical- so unlike the squeeze every note into every syllable histrionics of the Mariah Carey School of Yarbling.

Unfortunately, she could not curtail and control the very demons that lived within that voice. And she very rapidly regressed into the same sad story of an enormous talent imploding under the pressure of drugs, stardom and wanton self destruction. 

Ironically, and unlike so many others- she wanted neither the fame nor celebrity, and knew it would be the death of her...