Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Those Shooting Film...

Those of you us still shooting film should shoot a look at Aaron Brethorst's appropriately titled... I Shoot Film. Dissatisfied with The Massive Development Chart data, he set about compiling his own comprehensive film data chart-  in addition to the ultimate photo processing lab directory in these semi United States...

Monday, September 15, 2014

Money, Photography, Diversity

Recently, I shot Joerg Colberg a quick note of thanks and appreciation for his Sixth Annual Portfolio Competition  (deadline 10/31) labor of love. Interestingly, he wrote back a brief response stating how much more diverse the submissions were (as far as race and sex were concerned) than the usual competition fare, primarily because it was, in fact... free. Also of interest, the fact that the winners are "blindly" chosen, another nod towards avoiding- the usual suspects.

No surprise, of course, that most photo reviews and festivals are overwhelmingly White simply because of cost involved, or that most unpaid photo "intern" positions are filled by those (White) applicants who can most afford to work for... free. Or that those who can afford to attend those events are those that will most likely be remembered and invited to participate in upcoming projects, exhibitions, etc. The last part, at least, is easily understandable, it's how we humans interact and socialize- it's the first part that can get easily ignored, forgotten or... denied.

Anyone who's come here more than once by now realizes that I (along with a few handful of others) do on occasion talk about race and its relation to this thing we love called photography.  And while I'm certainly not going to apologize for it, it is very simply a reaction to the dearth of these conversations elsewhere, 'cause as we all know- people who talk about race are... racists!. Clearly, no faction of humanity is without fault or sin, and surely, everything isn't always "black and white," exactly why we need more open and ongoing discussion- as opposed to accusatory tirades. And it always, always, always devolves into just that because we never continue the discussion beyond that. Everyone either yells and screams at each other, or tries to talk over each other until in the end- we repeat, retreat or exhaust ourselves, accomplishing little, quietly gathering our strength and talking points until the next screamfest.

This is not to say that we could "cure" anyone of their hardcore, ingrained racism, no one is that naive, but it would be nice if there was an ongoing attempt to further dialogue beyond accusation and examine just how certain factors can influence and exclude. Of course, some (like myself) would say those factors and consequences are already well established and clearly evident- I think a good starting point is... why has their been so much more progress towards fighting sexism in the arts? Has sexism been vanquished- of course not! But the strides that women and LGBT people have made are obviously evident in places of power and consequence when it comes to the arts. Why has that segment of society experienced such consequential change, while so many people of color (with the possible exceptions of certain Asian populations) still struggle to maintain token representation? The question of economics looms large, but it is both cause and consequence of even larger factors.

Everyone harbors their own personal prejudices- admitting that is the first step, discussing how it impacts our world (of photography) would be the second...

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Minimum Wage/Maximum Outrage- From Debt To Death

Maria Fernandes
There are those who seek to better themselves through sheer force of will, working as many jobs and as many hours (often at minimum wage) as their bodies will endure. The constant physical wear involved in multiple jobs combined with the challenges of raising a family leaves many a parent with little time to rest, sleep or stabilize themselves long enough to maintain their physical, as well as psychological well being. Domestic abuse, addiction, and other stress and chronic health related issues all come to manifest themselves as a result of this physical and psychic abuse. Forget success, hard work and determination at minimum wage can't even cover the rent, and only guarantee perpetual slavery to a system designed to ensure just that. Sometimes, as in the case of Maria Fernandes, the result is the new face of economic martyrdom- the once proud American Dream reduced to the nightmare of premature death.

But what of education, Stan? Surely someone who's had some years in the teaching biz cannot deny the age old ladder towards upward mobility? Going through all the hoops against all odds from ghetto to mainstream for acceptance into jobs that are simply no longer there is bad enough, now the final insult has been firmly nailed in place with prohibitive tuition costs and for profit schools that are pledged to keep you in a world of debt before you even enter it.

I don't know how many new capitalist ploys will yet be introduced to squeeze every last remaining crumb and penny from those who can least afford it, for those who least need it- but fear not, they're working scheming on it...

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

On Blogs And Jackalopes And...

  Photo: Bruce Haley 

Not usually big on kid pictures, and yet... this is the kind that stops you in your tracks and just makes ya think. The contemplative look on this "little bruiser" (same two words came to my mind) does make one wonder the paths that lay before him- those he chose to walk, and those that chose him. Did he use his brawn and good looks to muscle his way through every one of life's problems; did those who came to fear him negotiate a premature demise? Did his physicality succumb solely to the allure of immediate gratification, or was he of a much rarer breed (as this photo seems to suggest) with the wherewithal to develop that rather pensive mind into that rarest of entities- a conscientious leader in the cause of righteousness? Yeah, good photography, good art, can make ya think on all them things....

Not many people keeping up (let alone starting up) photo blogs anymore. And along comes... Ropin' The Jackalope, making its grand debut with none other than former conflict photographer, prophet and raconteur extraordinaire (made at least one of those up) Bruce Haley at the helm. This could be (ie- will be) a most welcomed addition of oxygen rich blood doping into this now somewhat tired mix of the usual suspects, especially with all the youngbloods out there too busy tweetin' around. 

All shittin' aside, Bruce brings an experienced voice with a considerably different background and outlook that will be a most welcomed addition to most anyone's photo reading list: amusing, informative- and most definitely worth a look and listen...

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Maier Conundrum(s)

Recently, Petapixel linked to a couple of items of note concerning Vivian Maier, the more mundane of the two concerned this post from The Online Darkroom:

Vivian's photography is of a standard that I imagine I or most readers could have produced given the same opportunity...    
-Bruce Robbins

I think the key word in that statement is "imagine;" anyone's free to imagine they're as good as anyone else. No, she's not HCB. but she definitely deserves every accolade she's earned for the plethora of quality images she created in a time when such artistry was not exactly plentiful. Certain photo critics, historians and gallerists will snub her talent and/or work due to the lack of original prints, and don't take into account the most obvious of factors- how on earth was she then able to assess and improve her work without actually seeing it? And yet, that's exactly what she did- that alone is some unique kind of extraordinary genius in and of itself! Ironically, no one snubs HCB for not doing his own printing.

The author then goes on to assert that she must have had money to burn since she owned a Rolleiflex and shot a lot of film. Huh??? Maybe that's why she couldn't afford (to make) prints, she saved every penny of her meager nanny's salary to acquire basic, but top notch shooting equipment- and simply had to sacrifice on the other end. Not that hard to figure, especially if you've had to live on a tight budget- something's gotta give...

One of the main problems with Ms. Maier is that her extraordinary life story sometimes tends to trump her incredible legacy of work and talent- both are equally remarkable. Interestingly, would we know anything of an HCB, or Eggleston, or... if they hadn't been born into $$$?


The other issue, the one of considerably greater concern, is found within this article in the NY Times. This is where the Maier saga finally transforms into modern day, capitalist horror story via hostile takeover courtesy of none other than that classic 19th century villain reassuming his rightful position as 21st century scum of the earth. Enter (the oh so appropriately named) Mr. Deal, lawyer and leech of the lowest order, crawling in after the fact, seeking whatever crumbs he can wrest free and acquire. 

In truth, it was the one and only factor that has been missing from this fairy tale of art and longing- up until now we haven't had a real villain, a true foil to Maier's innocence and Maloof's quest to anoint her. The stage is set, the final act has commenced, as bullshit writ large strides in demanding its cut of money and notoriety. This chapter will only add to the legend; unfortunately, when lawyers ride in on the back of the law, the conclusion can be anything but happy.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Cell Tower Fakes vs. Fake Cell Towers

Photo: Dillon Marsh
Photo: Robert Voit

Bad enough having cell phone towers disguised as fake trees- at least they're grotesquely bad in a cool lookin' kinda way. But fake cell phone towers disguised as cell phone towers by god knows who, doing god knows what??? Now that's just plain... evil!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

But... I... Don't... See... (race)

Jesus Christ Hallelujah!!! How do I even start!? Lemme count the ways...

Forget about those who deny that prejudice is alive and well when it comes to employment (and everything else for that matter)- first, we gotta get through the hordes that actually believe that because you're Hispanic (or anyone of color), you get... preferential treatment! Yeah, some still stand up and shout that Affirmative Action snatched up all the choice jobs right outta the hands of the beleaguered White man. First, we gotta cut through that layer of insanity before we even start to approach reality... 

And fortunately, some guy (whose name begins with "J") just made recognizing reality a whole lot easier, a whole lot quicker, and way, way clearer- just by dropping an "s."      (posted by the son of... Jose Banos) 

Monday, September 1, 2014

ClimateChange/Climate March

Climate change means, amongst other things: less land to live on, and less potable water and food, particularly in areas already stricken with famine and drought- which in turn means... more (many more) people fighting for whatever remaining: food, land and water.

What promises to be the biggest climate protest will occur in NYC this Sept. 21st...

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Laetrile- Pure Quackery (Right?)

That's certainly what we've been told since the... seventies- when I last heard the word. But what if, what if... there really is something to it (and it's just too cheap to make an outrageous profit from)?

UPDATE: Interesting rebuttal...  (via Minnesotastan @ TYWKIWDBI)

The absolute vitriol in the rebuttal above could alone kill the most virulent of cancer cells! 

I'm not the biggest fan of Big Pharma for sure, but I don't have a particular dog in this fight. Laetrile could be complete quackery, or there could be something there. And it's also very interesting, that the major study this rebuttal quotes (the only one done on humans), was on advanced stage cancer patients- exactly what even Laetrile proponents say it is ineffective against (save for those south of the border anxious to make an American $).

I'm always particularly amused when the scientific establishment (ie- government) attempts to put down, ridicule and disavow anything "alternative" not by producing conclusive scientific evidence (the very hallmark of their existence), but by in turn putting out their own focused, emotional and anecdotal appeals and conjecture based solely on their reputation and beliefs (eg- nothing like dismissing UFO's with... swamp gas).

Friday, August 29, 2014


Photo by Jim Norris courtesy of Scripps Oceanography

Year after bloody year I'd yell at someone (anyone)- why the hell hasn't someone bothered filming this; it's not like they have no idea where they are. All that was ever freakin' needed was a coupla cameras with the necessary technology, and a wee bit of patience...

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


For the past several years I've felt very safe going on the occasional flight with film safely wrapped in my heavy duty, double laminated lead film bag designed to protect film up to ISO 1600. I was invincible, invulnerable, very much on the order of an aging analog demigod. But I recently read that all security has to do is ramp up their X-ray machines until they can see inside that sucker. Who knew!?!? Now, I really don't know what to think. Have they been double dosing their radiation all along to peek inside- or have they just quietly been giving me the pass? I have no clue... Actually, my film did go through a scanner unprotected when I visited the WTC memorial a couple of years back (the cops weren't making any exceptions). I somehow managed to keep both mouth and emotion in check- fortunately, no dire results; but no one wants to have their film X-rayed, voluntarily or otherwise- and sweat to see what does or doesn't happen...

Current wisdom says to just put the film naked in a transparent plastic bag and kindly ask security to hand inspect. For good measure, it's also said one should throw in a roll or two of 1600 ISO film, since 400 ISO is officially touted as the magic cut off point of the scanner safety limit- the high ISO presence would hopefully provide the needed incentive for them to grudgingly acquiesce and hand inspect.

So the question remains... this Sept. when I'm off visiting the folks in NYC, do I continue with the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach, or do I dispense with the supposed facade of (non)protection altogether, and accept the possibility that I've just been flying lucky all along???

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Super Hero Identities Exposed And Revealed!

Photo: © S. Banos

 A fellow photographer calls 'em my "dick pictures," guess I can't argue much there. They say you are what you photograph, so... I... errrr... Yeah, really don't know where to go with that either...

Photo: © S. Banos

Photo: © S. Banos

For the judgemental, at least ya know what ya get with these guys, unlike all the closeted, "straight laced," Gay bashing Republicans. These photos are taken at predominantly Gay, S&M "street fairs" in San Francisco that occur twice a year, in a closed off section of town ($10 entry). And since I'm neither Gay, nor into S&M, I suppose I am operating strictly in the capacity of voyeur, telling myself I'm a photographer who must document for posterity and understanding- not to mention the inherent humor of it all. Perhaps, the fact these images challenge us to more closely examine ourselves as a species is validation enough.

What I definitely can say is that they are nice enough to let me do my thing, while they do theirs...

Photo: © S. Banos

Friday, August 22, 2014

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Photography At Its Most Essential

Sure, photography can make some awfully pretty pictures- it can even make that most elusive of creatures called art. But it is always at its most profound when it exclaims the simple wonder of its very existence- to give life to what was, and hope to what may be.

Monday, August 18, 2014

An Abbreviated Vacation

Bring the step ladder, bring the step ladder, bring the freakin' step ladder! That's the mantra I've kept telling myself over and over since our last road trip years ago. Road trips are when you can bring everything plus the kitchen sink, since ya don't have to carry it all with ya. And from previous trips, I've found that what I've really needed much more than a tripod was a step ladder for those scenics and architectural shots where one doesn't have view camera controls for the necessary height and perspective control. So needless to say what particular item I yet again forgot to pack...

Anyway, Uncle Amex could only afford us a rental for three nights/four days last weekend; the plan was to head south and hit Sequoia National Park (always wanted to see those big mothers since I saw the HUMONGOUS cross section of one displayed in The Museum of Natural History since I was but a wee lad) and then swing back home via Death Valley. We arrived at the former around five late afternoon, and it was not quite what we expected. It wasn't a magical forest of unbelievably huge and majestic grand Sequoias, rather a large forest with what appeared to be a few sprinkling of said trees. To get to General Sherman (the BIGGEST tree in the world), we would have to park the car, stand on line, then jump on a bus to see him. Considering the time, we forgoed that option since we still had to secure a motel somewhere in the general vicinity; we would return the following day. Winding our way out of the park, it took what seemed forever going up and down endlessly curving mountain roads that increasingly devolved from scenic opportunities to repetitive stress related syndrome. Halfway outta the park we realized we would not have the time to return the next day, and seriously wondered if it was worth the effort even if we did. Redwood National Park is a truly magical place with its own wondrous aura, Sequoia National Park on the other hand... to be honest we didn't give it a fair shake, but...

Outside the Mad Greek's Cafe @ Baker, CA- "Gateway To Death Valley;"  Photo: © S. Banos

So on we went to Death Valley where we had made a night's reservation at the "world famous" Amargosa Opera House and Hotel. The aforementioned has quite the fascinating history, having been purchased by NYC ballerina Marta Becket in 1968, where she continued to live and give solo performances (she just celebrated her 90th birthday there) in the middle of the desert. It is also said to be haunted. Love the place: stark, desolate, dilapidated- literally in the middle of nowhere. A place I really feel at home in...

Next day, we formally entered Death Valley National Park, first stop was Zabriskie Point, where if it wasn't for the locale, one would swear was somewhere mid Europe- the only languages heard: German, French and a smattering of Italian. While there, we were treated to a mid morning summer storm- complete with lightning, thunder, dramatic skies and flash flooding... Quite the once in a lifetime treat, but try as I might (and I most certainly did), could not get the requisite lightning enhanced landscape shot. Didn't need the step ladder either...

Barstow, CA;  Photo: © S. Banos