Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Illegality Often Starts At Home

What The Right Wing in this country doesn't want you to know, of course, is that the current refugee/child migrant issue at the border didn't occur overnight in a vacuum. This shit storm of a nightmare is in large part yet another chapter of the continuing saga of US blowback throughout this big, wide, wonderful world of ours. We've had our finger foot in the proverbial Latin American pie for so long, we've conveniently forgotten to what extent that involvement has profited our citizens- and laid waste to their societies, socially, economically, you name it...

 And if ya still need further explanation:

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Back Of The Bus

Since Mr. Von Thomas has not had the courtesy to respond (as promised), I can only conclude that he believes this a non-issue, one not worthy of his time or attention- let alone his response. In other words, I'm gonna assume he's one of those blessed souls who claims they just... "don't see race." Personally, I hope we all get there someday- as for right now:

... every time someone says that, it tells that other than white person that you are not seeing them as who and what they are; you are not considerate enough, knowledgeable enough, astute enough to know how the world works (regardless of whatever education you may possess), and how your position in it is automatically differentiated from theirs since birth- and that you will neither make the time nor effort to even consider that, thank you very much. In short, that magic, feel good phrase says more about what you so woefully lack as a thinking, feeling individual, than anything you may possibly have to offer as friend, ally, or neutral observer. And it does so in a manner that not only comes off as utterly inept, but also as completely arrogant, ignorant, condescending and bogus.

At best, in today's day and age, saying you "don't see race" simply means you want to avoid the subject at all cost.


As to the issue at hand... People are naturally drawn to photograph (and publish) that which for whatever reason appeals to them, and as long as there's no harm, no foul- who am I to object or argue? That said, If You Leave has become one of the most followed and referenced online photography galleries. It presents itself as the iconic look and feel of hip young photographers in today's modern day global setting, something that particular generation can identify with, relate to and share common ground with. And yet, how can this visual vehicle that promotes such supposedly cutting edge, universal appeal be so shackled by the centuries old constraints of racial exclusion? I mean, when I saw the blatant lack of diversity in its images, I was... I believe the term is- gobsmacked!

Jesus H Christ! From the gallery to the backyard, it's deja vu all over again in this so called "post racial" era. Sixty years after Brown vs Board of Ed, de facto segregation in schools is alive and well in the US, and Europeans are still happily tossing bananas at Black pro ball players while making monkey noises!

Photo: Laurence Tarquin Von Thomas

Five long years of photographs on If You Leave, hundreds of photographers, and one (count 'em- you're welcome to correct me) photograph (by none other than Mr. Von Thomas himself) features a scattering of Black faces interspersed in the background of an image highlighting a White female as its focal point. There's a possible second of a Black man in a hoodie- alas, the face is concealed (yeah, the absolute irony- identity and affirmation denied)! And- that's it, period. Case closed! Hundreds upon hundreds of photos (fifteen of Asians), and not one that predominantly features a Black or Brown face to date...

Obviously, someone doesn't realize just how badly that plays and translates, and/or just doesn't care- and for someone supposedly literate in the photographic/visual image, that is inexcusable. Everybody makes mistakes or omissions, but when you continue to exclude and deny representation of specific peoples (that just happen to compromise so much of our world) over such an extended period of time... Intentional or not, it presents a very clear picture of a global viewpoint that conspicuously denies the value and very existence of those people. The implied message- they're just not worth considering, let alone looking at. Who's gonna miss 'em, who's gonna object?

Is that really where we are today? Again!?!

Is this new Kickstarter endeavor the promise of a new, less exclusive format? Here we are in the 21st century where the discussion has finally shifted to publishing work taken by indigenous people the world over, instead of just having the White world view. Is this what If You Leave means by its stated goal of a global audience- encouraging and publishing photos both of people of color, and by them? That's a lot of ground to make up on both ends in the case of this publication- one so deeply steeped in denial and exclusion.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Coliseum Revisted

Andrew Burton/Getty Images (via)

I wonder if this photo will someday end up in Mark Kologi's found photo garage? Some yungun will pick it up and wonder what outdoor show or fireworks display from decades past these relaxed vacationers were preparing to watch. They'll remember how much fun they had in their own youth celebrating with their families or neighborhood friends before the responsibilities of adulthood finally hit home. They'll bask in the temporary glow provided by warm childhood memories...

And then some grizzled old timer like myself will walk up and sadly inform him or her that those are not vacationers, those are not fireworks, and that those nice people came to view and cheer on the death and dismemberment of children and families, came to celebrate the hatred and carnage that one group of people can bestow upon another.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The (Found) Photo Man

Mark Kologi gets it, this rather humble guy sitting in a garage somewhere in LA, collecting old photos, lives and memories. He gets it. It's not about the latest flavor, sensor or cool, neat photoshop action; it's about what photography does best- what even the most simple of cameras can do. The closest thing to a real live time machine man has yet devised; and limited as it is, still grasps the fleeting wonders of our lives, places them in our hands, and forever lays testament to a past just as real and sentient as anything we will ever yet experience, and never will again...

Friday, July 18, 2014

An Apology- And Then Some...

First, one thing I would like to apologize for, Mr. Von Thomas- I did not mean to leave the impression that there aren't any worthwhile images on If You Leave, that is certainly not the case. Mea Culpa. I was overwhelmed by the issue at hand and did not mean to leave that impression.

That said, the week has passed, and you have failed to respond to my inquiry as promised. Actually, I initially contacted you with the same query via email on July 4. Barring a death in the family or an extreme medical emergency (my sympathy and/or support should that be the case), one can only conclude that you have gone back on your word either because you do not think this a valid issue and it is therefore beneath your consideration, or you are (understandably) too embarrassed and do not know how to address it. Forgetting, or just being too busy over the course of two weeks time to at least write a reply will not suffice.

I was sincerely hoping to hear your side, your accounting, but you once again seem reluctant and unwilling to engage. I was hoping this would be a dialogue to the benefit of all. For those who are perhaps still unclear as to my objections, I will elaborate further early next week. Bet on it...

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


Mr. Von Thomas has emailed agreeing to respond to my post (below), if I publish his response unedited (wouldn't have it any other way) sometime "before the end of the week." Well, it is summertime, and we all have our priorities. Will delete this update upon receipt...

Monday, July 14, 2014

If You Leave... Out

So I happen upon this online photo competition via British Journal of Photography- no fee, single images, and if memory serves, a traveling show, book, etc. courtesy a fully funded Kickstarter! Those first two (non) requirements were very appealing: no $ required, and... single images (no essay). Yes, made to order! Returned home to peruse the website (always recommended) and tailor my submissions. Quickly noted this was very much- photography for 20 yr olds only (didn't see it stated anywhere, didn't have to). Next, it became quite apparent that there wasn't one (1) B&W photo on the entire blog- the blimp plummets in free fall.

Hey, what ya gonna do? His ride, his rules- no problem. So I ease down and start looking at the five years of images collected by Mr. Laurence Von Thomas. Think early Ryan McGinley, if he and his models were not so joyously carefree and frolicking- more like suffering from the dreaded... melancholia. Lots of semi nude young women looking arsty and depressed, interspersed with nature scenics, guys standing in the middle of things, guys standing in the middle of nature scenics, and the occasional grainy, blurry color shots with very visible dust marks for good measure. Pretty much what yunguns of a certain age are into; understandable- but you'd think there would be a bit more progression, a bit more variety and exploration during the course of five years of running a photography blog. Hell, I only shoot B&W of a certain style, but I sure can appreciate a helluva lot more- yes, even back in the day.

Then there's the other thing that one gradually begins to notice- photo, after photo, after photo... Not only are there no B&W images- there are no Black or Brown faces! Granted, I began to phase out through the first coupla years of such similarly styled themes and images, but the only two photographs I remember of colored faces (besides a few featured Asians- Japanese?) was a shot in a bus where Black faces were in the periphery of the dead centered White female, and a shot of a Black person in a hoodie with face obscured (black hands). I-kid-you-not. We're talking decimal percentage here- forget token percentage. Especially weird for someone who keeps extolling the virtues of his "global audience."

So I emailed Mr. Von Thomas as to what's up with his particular vision, a vision where beauty, youth and romance certainly does not seem to exist or extend beyond the lighter shades. Still waitin'...

 His ride; most definitely, his rules.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Algorithm Madness!

It's bad enough that photos look different on each and every monitor in existence (and at every possible screen angle) as far as exposure and contrast is concerned, but what really drives me crazy is that after I struggle to get the contrast just right in Photoshop Elements, the contrast goes several grades down when viewed on Windows Organizer, back up when posted on Flickr, and of late- Blogger seems to soak up contrast like some kinda freakin' sponge (which was never the case before); needless to say- all on my home monitor. I've learned that how it appears on my organizer is how it most closely appears in print, but the rest of it is sheer, utter madness...

Friday, July 11, 2014

It Depends, Of Course, On What You Mean By... U-F-O

The analysis is a bit tedious, but an interesting examination all the same of indicative, tell tale signs that don't always register in real time. Particularly interesting when the person being examined is one of the foremost fornicators of the truth that ever inhabited the most elite of power circles.

And then, of course, there is... the subject matter!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Jacques Sonck- Too Good To Hide...

Photo: Jacques Sonck
Photo: Richard Avedon

Break out the short list of photography's great portraitists and most likely (ie- guaranteed), the name of Jacques Sonck won't be anywhere near it- in fact, chances are no one will even be familiar with the name outside his home country. I know I wasn't until I had the great fortune to see his work on Lens recently. Here's this guy who's been chugging along for decades doing pretty much the same as Richard Avedon- minus the fame, the wall sized prints and celebrity packed exhibits, the entourage of assistants to pick out his subjects and set up his camera...

A "portrait" of humility and under appreciated artistic accomplishment...

Photo: Jacques Sonck

Photo: Jacques Sonck

Photo: Jacques Sonck

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Free Leonard!

Photo: © S. Banos

I remember reading years decades ago that the FBI knew he didn't do the killing, they just wanted to punish him because they believed he knew who did. And still he languishes in jail for a crime everyone knows he did not commit...

Friday, July 4, 2014

For All Men Are Created Equal...

I have always been amazed at how Conservatives consistently claim to be both the progenitors and guardians of true blue, American ideals and values, when it was actually a bunch of radical revolutionaries that revolted, fought for and created this country. Of course, there's always been that one small caveat, that one small irritant that nagged so blatantly in the craw of all that talk of freedom and justice. Ya know, that thing that didn't quite fit the pattern of The Bill of Rights, or that stuff about "all men are created equal." Yeah, you know... the very financial backbone of what this new "land of the free" would be based on- the ownership and enslavement of human beings, that most peculiar of institutions...

Were the Founding Fathers just the blatant, myopic hypocrites that we always assumed them to be, or were they quite possibly- ultra Conservatives, not revolutionaries, who purposely founded this country in order to help keep, maintain, and expand that most heinous of human enterprise into perpetuity? After all, Britain promised freedom to any Blacks who fought on their side against the upstart Americans, and then proceeded to abolish slavery well before the United States, and in a much less bloody fashion...

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Close (but still no cigar)...

As far as buying my first breakthrough digital camera that is. If I had the $$$, I'd buy the Fujifilm XT-1 with 20, 28 & 40mm equivalents- case closed, set for life; but I don't, so I won't... 

Considered a Sony a7- can use all my Nikon glass on a super compact FF body! Except the bulky adapters would throw off the whole balance and size thing! Might as well go for the Nikon D610 and get a real OVF and complete manual controls- but I'll honor my oath to abstain from bulbous DSLR's.

The Olympus E-M10- cute as a button, but no real WA primes beyond 28mm equivalents; the Olympus 12mm is soft and expensive, and the WA zooms are way too horrifying to contemplate with their telescoping, penile proboscises. Those zooming protrusions put such a royal hurtin' on my eyes and sensibilities, I couldn't care how good they are. But Stan, they're just tools- it's stupid to buy things just on looks. No, not just looks. Cars are transportation tools; most new cars do their thing well (like most new cameras)- and while we can't all afford the most pleasing to our eye, we at least settle for... the least offensive. So why is insisting on photographic tools that do not assault our overall aesthetics any more crazy (unless you need a very specific tool for a very specific reason)? Meanwhile, third party lens offerings are bulkier and tend to defeat the size advantage of the m4/3 format, and the Panasonic (non telescoping) WA zoom is too expensive, with an engorged front element that simply begs you to scratch it and watch you cry. Yes, I really have thought this out.

Fact is, I'm not that prodigious a shooter, and fortunately, I'm still having fun with my F3 and FM3A. We'll see what happens in a coupla years when the organic sensors kick in, I should have won the Lotto by then, or at least have bought a ticket.

Anyway, lots of very interesting things heading down our way- and I still continue to throw wayward glances at this lovely lady...

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Luxury of Unemployment

It's been well over four years since Dominique Browning was cast unto unemployment much like myself along with a cast of hundreds of thousands of others. And if you're anything like me, you've also spent many a restless night wondering about her ultimate fate and well being. 

Alas! Unlike the vast majority of those unwashed minions, she did not have to ponder who would hire a middle age adult, or how she would survive on a minimum wage income lost and forgotten amidst the nightmare of ridiculously unaffordable rents, or the plague of crime ridden streets. She just bravely carried on with the life she was destined to lead, contemplating her plight as she walked the quiet sands of the beach surrounding her... one remaining house, and writing a labor of love, appropriately entitled... Slow Love: How I Lost My Job, Put On My Pajamas, and Found Happiness. I can only begin to imagine the struggle she endured to find a publisher!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

(Not So) Critical Mass?

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Rhea Karam's Breathing Walls

Photo: Rhea Karam

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

Monday, June 23, 2014


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

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

Friday, June 20, 2014

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

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

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Touching Ambiguity- Richard Renaldi

Richard Renaldi: As good as it ever gets!

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 15, 2014

China's Wholesale Slaughter Of The Innocents

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

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

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

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