Thursday, March 31, 2011

Three links amplified

Last fall I posted a short writeup on forgotten South African photographer Billy Monk. Now Micheal Stevenson Gallery in Cape Town is showing an exhibition of Monk's nightclub photos. It's up for a few more weeks. If you can't make it to the gallery in person, their website features a large selection of Monk photos. They're depraved, energized, possibly misogynist, and definitely worth a look.

The Catacombs, 25 November 1968, Billy Monk

Speaking of candid 60s photos, Nick Turpin has recently published a sampling of early Winogrand color work on 779, with the promise of more to come. Ok, maybe they're not depraved and wild but still pretty tasty nonetheless. Come on, it's friggin Winogrand. Hot dawg!

Garry Winogrand now showing at 779

Finally, the Portland Grid Project website has recently been updated (thanks to David Potter) with thousands of new photos. If you haven't visited the site for a while, everything from 2008 to the present is newly added. I've got about 250 new photos on there, and that's just a drop in the overflowing bucket that is PGP's website, and that bucket is just a tiny speck in the universe of PGP photographs.

G9, 6/08, David Potter

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sweet Sixteen

Here are results of the Photobook Tournament's second round (upsets in italics):

Diane Arbus (self titled) defeated DeCarava and Hughes, The Sweet Flypaper of Life, 193-53
Helen Levitt, A Way of Seeing def. Bruce Davidson, East 100th St., 121-118
Garry Winogrand, The Animals def. Lee Friedlander, Self Portrait, 123-117
Weegee, Naked City def. W. Klein, Life is Good & Good for You in New York, 128-95
Walker Evans, American Photographs def. Harry Callahan Photographs, 181-61
Robert Adams, The New West def. Larry Clark, Tulsa, 122-104
William Eggleston's Guide def. Joel Sternfeld, American Prospects, 151-83
Edward Weston, Fifty Photographs def. Lewis Baltz, The New Industrial Parks Near Irvine, CA, 151-71
H. Cartier-Bresson, The Decisive Moment def. Robert Capa, Slightly Out of Focus, 188-47
August Sander, Face of Our Time def. Brassai, Paris by Night, 130-116
Eugene Atget, Photographs of Paris def. Josef Sudek, Fotografie, 166-69
Bill Brandt, The English at Home def. Man Ray Photographs, 1920-24, 145-79
Robert Frank, The Americans def. Jim Goldberg, Rich and Poor, 228-14
Daido Moriyama, Bye Bye Photography def. Danny Lyon, The Bikeriders, 119-90
Ralph Eugene Meatyard, The Family Album of Lucybelle Crater def. Kikuji Kawada, The Map, 96-77
Susan Meiselas, Carnival Strippers def. Sultan/Mandel, Evidence, 123-69

Many tight contests and upsets galore. As in every round I was sad to see some personal favorites lose. Evidence? East 100th St.? Both out. Oh well, that's part of the fun. I think Brandt's English at Home could be this season's Cindarella. Who knew it would prove so strong? Can it top Atget? Will Moriyama be the book that says Bye Bye to The Americans? Is this The Decisive Moment when someone finally topples Cartier-Bresson? Who knows. Here's the way the tournament shapes up as of this morning:

Jack Ohman for The Oregonian, 3/27/11

Oh wait a minute, wrong tournament. Sorry. I meant to post this one:

Third round voting continues in the right sidebar from now until 4/5 at midnight Pacific.

As for the main March Madness, my bracket has long since busted. Which is fine because now I can cheer freely for the underdogs. Pulling for VCU, but with a sinking feeling that Calipari might finally be holding scissors next Monday.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bipolar Poulailler

The chicken coop I mentioned last month is mostly done. Just a few walls, a door, ramp, and a bit of chicken wire to go. Any week here and it'll be ready, if it would only stop raining for a moment. And no time to waste either, since we're already in possession of four young pullets living in our bathroom.

This photo is from several days ago. They're about twice this size now. Their growth rate is quite mind-blowing. Pretty soon the little tub won't hold them so I'm doing my best to get that coop ready. I'm really hoping to have it done in time for the Photolucida portfolio walk. If past experience is any guide I should be the only person there with a working chicken coop on display.

Here's a shot of Snips.

And here's what Zanzibar buk-buk McFate looks like flying off Emmett's arm:

The kids have been going nuts for them. They hang out near the tub for long periods just watching. Of course they can't resist handling them too.

This chicken shot is abstract enough to look like a planet seen through a telescope.

What if I zoom out? That's better. Now the interstellar Holga effect really takes over.

Here's another recent interstellar Holga shot from the Portland Zoo:

My frame counter got bounced and I wound up compressing images on the roll by accident but it turned out to be a good accident. I like the result.

The growth rate of kids is pretty mind-blowing. Gotta document them at certain sizes.

By the way kids, sorry but we didn't save any polar ice for you. It'll be melted by the time you're middle aged adults. Our bad. If it makes you feel any better the photo above shows us watching you watch it happen.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sex, Death and the History of Photography

I think this ambitiously titled series by Karl Baden is very entertaining. He made them pre-Photoshop between 1981 and 1988 using x-acto knife, dry-mounting tissue, then re-photographing. The results are quite clever and playful. More sex, death, and history can be found on Baden's Facebook page.

Diane Arbus / Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1988

after Paul Strand, 1982

August Sander / Diane Arbus, 1988

Timothy O'Sullivan / Edward Weston, 1988

after Brassai / Ralph Morse, 1988

Harold Edgerton / J.H. Lartigue, 1988

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Recent emails received and replied to:

On Mar 2, 2011, at 11:21 AM, H--- wrote:

I was an enthusiastic follower of your blog for a while, but you've completely lost me with all this urination imagery. First off, it's not the least bit aesthetically interesting. I find all the urination photos you've posted to be offensive, and I'd like someone to explain to me how this qualifies as some sort of art and not pornography.

You and your readers should be reminded of this: If I find someone pointing a camera in me at a public bathroom, I would not hesitate to detain the person & have him (or her) arrested.

fuck you,

M---. from S--

Dear Sir or Madam,

We appreciate your recent email. Due to the high volume of recent correspondence, your email cannot be processed immediately but will be read and dealt with in the order it was received.

If your email was an accolade for recent articles "The Space Test" or "Rehab" or "Pissed" please note that sufficient positive feedback has already accumulated, and additional positive feedback is not necessary at this time. If your email was sent in response to "I found my truck" please note that the truck has been located.


Ed Holmes,
Acting coordinator for B

On Mar 19, 2011, at 3:15 PM, Bill Black wrote:


We own and operate web site and would like to exchange links with other good quality web sites such as yours at

If you wish to exchange 3 waylinks, or exchange links manually by email. Just reply to this email with your web site details; title, description, url We can exchange reciprocal links, 3way links and deep links.

With best Regards

Bill Black
SEO Link Building Team

Dear Mr. Black,

Your offer to exchange links sounds intriguing. However, I must decline simply because visitors to my blog generally possess all the baby accessories that they need.

Although I haven't done a market study, I think the reciprocal is also true. Generally patrons of baby accessories tend to keep sufficient supplies in hand of offbeat photography-related thoughts, no matter how infantile these thoughts may be, and so I'm guessing my site would an unnecessary distraction.

For the babies,


On Mar 25, 2011, at 10:09 AM, mariam njokumar wrote:

Hi Dear,
compliments of the season.
I know that you do not know me, i do not know you in person but i got your contact from a busness consultant in Dakar-Senegal. I have a business proposal,please get back to me if you are interested.


Miss Maryam,

I've always wondered about certain things. When old people read quietly to themselves, is it with an old creaky voice in their heads? Did ancient early humans have daily worries like us? Did they stress and quibble, laying under the bearskin at dawn thinking "Gotta kill 2 bison today, then deal with the campfire, and then work on that cave drawing if I have time." And why did technology at one point favor straight edges and corners, when in recent years the trend seems to be circling back toward rounded corners? Any help you can offer answering these questions would be appreciated.

Seasonal compliments,


(My email policy: I try to respond personally to every email sent to me by an actual person, and occasionally to impersonal form letters. Sometimes I will send a form letter in reply to a personal email, or a personal reply to a form letter, or vice versa, or versa vice, or whatever the situation calls for. For more info, drop me an email.)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Japan to Hyde

In the past few weeks I've seen a slew of photographic fundraisers for Japan. Most operate under a similar model: Photographer(s) donate print(s), they sell (usually for a nominal price), the money goes to disaster relief. Although these efforts are probably more of a feel-good salve than real heavyweight solution, I have no problem supporting them since they are generally for a good cause.

Portland Mercury cover, 3/17/11
"I can name that news event in two geometric shapes..."

In light of these fundraisers I'm reminded of a an editorial which recently endorsed the opposite approach. Pim Milo argues against photographers donating to charity auctions under the theory that they undercut the free market. The idea is if you give art away, people won't want to pay for it.

Fair enough. I suppose it's also true that if you go around having sex for free you'll cripple the prostitution market. The same thing could be said for giving food to the hungry. Did you forget there's no free lunch? And who's going to pay for concert tickets when stars are willing to play in private for close friends? In fact any gift threatens the free market system. Not only are gifts impractical, they reek of socialism.

You probably see where I'm going with this. I think the idea of being stingy to preserve "market value" is absurd and asinine. The problem with Pim Milo's approach is that it presumes that everything in society has a price and that every societal transaction is driven by financial motives.

Sadly, he's half right. Most societal decisions are guided by Smith's invisible hand, and the world is heading further in that direction every day. For example, here in Eugene we have a 73 year old baseball stadium which is about to be sold to the highest bidder and converted to a shopping mall. It makes sense in pure economic terms, but from any other perspective it's ridiculous.

Do we want art bound up in that equation too? If anything has the potential to exist outside the market system, surely it's art. If we can't give away photographs once in a while, what kind of world do we live in? One where we all clutch our belongings close to us, terrified to let anything go for less than free market value? No thanks. I'd prefer the world in which photos are given and received and swapped and forgotten and found, and cherished, and, at least occasionally, fuck the free market.

Milo's argument probably does make sense for a very small segment of photographers. If your work is collectible and routinely sells for several thousand dollars it may not make sense to give it away. But how many people fit in that category? A few hundred photographers in the world? For the rest of us, I've got good news. You can give away your photos without worrying about that crap.

You're free to start giving away photos today. I don't mean on random street corners (although that idea has possibilities). I mean occasionally and in important ways. Treat your work like freshly baked cookies. Give them to friends and family. Give them to charity auctions. Swap and barter with other photographers. Breath some life into the gift economy. You can send all free photos to me at...No, no, just kidding. But seriously, why wait for the invisible hand?

I'll get off my soapbox now. I have a free print of this photo for the first person who requests it via email. (*Sorry, no longer available)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Round Two

Here are the results from Round One of the Photobook Tournament (upsets in italics):

New York Regional

1. Diane Arbus (self-titled) defeats Ugo Mulas, New York The New Art Scene, 110-2
2. DeCarava and Hughes, The Sweet Flypaper of Life def. Allen Ginsberg Photographs, 55-42
3. Helen Levitt, A Way of Seeing def. Walker Evans, Many Are Called, 72-40
4. Bruce Davidson, East 100th St. def. Berenice Abbott, Changing New York, 79-29
5. Garry Winogrand, The Animals def. Lisette Model (self-titled), 86-18
6. Lee Friedlander, Self Portrait def. Andy Warhol's Index, 93-14
7. Weegee, Naked City def. Nan Goldin, Ballad of Sexual Dependency, 71-45
8. William Klein, Life is Good & Good for You in New York def. Avedon/Capote, Observations, 73-34

Middle America Regional

9. Walker Evans, American Photographs def. Wright Morris, The Inhabitants, 102-7
10. Harry Callahan Photographs def. Aaron Siskind Photographs, 61-29
11. Larry Clark, Tulsa def. Bill Owens, Suburbia, 61-48
12. Robert Adams, The New West def. Emmet Gowin, Concerning America, and Alfred Stieglitz..., 75-24
13. Joel Sternfeld, American Prospects def. Lange and Taylor, An American Exodus, 75-22
14. William Eggleston's Guide def. Lothar Baumgarten, Carbon, 103-5
15. L. Baltz, The New Industrial Parks Near Irvine, CA def. Michael Lesy, Wisconsin Death Trip, 50-34
16. Edward Weston, Fifty Photographs def. Ed Ruscha, Every Building on the Sunset Strip, 53-43

Europe Regional

17. H. Cartier-Bresson, The Decisive Moment def. Ed Van der Elsken, Jazz, 93-12
18. Robert Capa, Slightly Out of Focus def. Doisneau and Cendrars, The Suburbs of Paris, 58-31
19. Brassai, Paris By Night def. Andre Kertesz, Day of Paris, 53-38
20. August Sander, Face of Our Time def. J.H. Lartigue, Diary of a Century, 59-28
21. Josef Sudek, Fotografie def. A. Renger-Patzsch, The World is Beautiful, 56-24
22. Eugene Atget, Photographs of Paris def. L. Moholy-Nagy, Painting Photography Film, 68-22
23. May Ray, Photographs 1920-24 def. The Bechers, Anonymous Sculptures, 50-40
24. Bill Brandt, The English at Home def. Gilles Peress, Telex Iran, 49-35

Misfits Regional

25. Robert Frank, The Americans def. Richard Prince, Adult Comedy Action Drama, 106-2
26. Jim Goldberg, Rich and Poor def. Hosoe and Mishima, Killed by Roses, 50-28
27. Danny Lyon, The Bikeriders def. Bill Burke, I Want to Take Picture, 48-29
28. D. Moriyama, Bye Bye Photography def. Eugene Smith, Minamata, 47-45
29. R. E. Meatyard, The Family Album of Lucybelle Crater def. Alexey Brodovitch, Ballet, 45-43
30. Kikuji Kawada, The Map def. Joan Fontcuberta, Fauna, 41-22
31. Susan Meiselas, Carnival Strippers def. Araki Nobuyoshi, Sentimental Journey, 52-30
32. Sultan and Mandel, Evidence def. Lucas Samaras, Samaras Album, 65-13

There were ten first round upsets, compared to seven in the first round of the 2011 NCAAs. Blame sloppy seeding. Conceptualists were among the big losers, as Lesy, The Bechers, Warhol, Fontcuberta, Prince, and (arg!) Ruscha all went down early. Round one had quite a few blowout decisions but I expect the competition to tighten up in later rounds.

Here's how the bracket looks now:

Round Two is now open in the right sidebar. Many intriguing matchups. Polling ends next Tuesday, 3/29, at midnight Pacific. Happy voting.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Five photobooks, five albums, five words each

Adam Bartos, Boulevards
Suburban parked cars suddenly reconsidered

The Staple Singers, Great Day
Guitar, harmony, gospel mix, unmixed

David Solomons, Underground
Small frames crammed with wonder

Deerhoof vs. Evil
Beefheart-punk gods slipping slightly?

Joachim Brohm, Color
Shore meets Friedlander circa 1985

The Handsome Family, In the Air
She writes, he sings: Gorgeous

Bernard Plossu, So Long
Ten books marching in column

Dap-Dippin' with Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings
Their first and best effort

Bajac and Parr, Parr by Parr
Chock full of thoughts; Eaggle!

The Fall, Grotesque
Sadly overlooked late-punk gem

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Although I've always been a fan of Kertész, this is one photo of his that never did much for me until recently.

New York, 1962, André Kertész

Big deal. It's a guy staring at a broken bench. What makes that so great? At least that's what I thought before last week.

It turns out my friend George owns a print of this photo. Last week he brought it our monthly photo group and I got a good close look at the thing and, as some photos do when encountered for the first time in person, especially when wine is involved, it transformed.

The thing I noticed right off is that the man isn't looking at the bench after all. He's looking at the couple in the distance. I was never able to see this before on the web, and even looking at the photo in a book it's not very clear. But in a real live print his gaze is unmistakable, and it changes the whole photo.

Suddenly the couple isn't just a background element. It's the subject of the photo. The nearby bench? That's just a red herring. No, the couple is what the man is looking at. They're about 100 feet away. All of the sudden the picture's space has expanded, along with the mystery. What makes that couple so interesting? The man stopped at the bench presumably for a reason. Why isn't he looking at it? That question becomes the new twist.

Then there are the tones which I'd somehow never noticed before, probably because I'd never paid much attention to the couple. Looking last week I saw that the couple and the man's hands are small white islands in a sea of grey. What's more, these white islands form the corners of a triangle with the broken bench as sides. Like most of Kertész' best, this photo only works in greyscale.

Wow! How the heck did he see that? I'm looking at the photo years after he shot it and I can barely see it. But to approach such a scene in real life, calculate the forms and perspective, wait for the gaze and hands, and quickly whip off the frame? Dude was in a serious zone.

But the plot thickens. The day after seeing this photo I stumbled on some background info in The Ongoing Moment. According to Geoff Dyer, the couple is Kertész' wife, Elizabeth, talking to a mental patient she'd recently taken an interest in. The man with back to the camera is Frank Thomas, Elizabeth's business partner. And, oh yeah, one last thing. Frank Thomas is blind. He's not looking at anything.

So wait a minute. He knew the people? Was the whole thing a setup? Was he in a zone or wasn't he?

I'm afraid there's no black and white answer. Like the photo, any interpretation works in shades of grey. Of course those shades may shift over time.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Cotton, Democracy, and Foam

"I'm genuinely concerned about the number of young people that are pursuing degrees in photography, presumably thinking that the success criteria in this medium stems from joining the canon of photography as contemporary art, and then make a living out of that position. Such aspirations are founded upon a disingenuous idea - that photography is democratic, and therefore everyone has a fighting, almost entrepreneurial chance to be a leading light in this 'democratic medium' - when in fact both these aspirations and the art market are not democratic whatsoever, but are about being the one lifted from the many."

Well said, Charlotte Cotton!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Photobook Tourney

March Madness is upon us again, which means it's time for another photography tournament. This year's tourney will work along the same model as last year's, except that instead of street photographers the contest this time is between photography books.

I've chosen 64 books from Andrew Roth's Book of 101 Books: Seminal Photographic Books of the Twentieth Century. Most but not all titles have been translated into English. Modeling after the NCAAs, I've seeded the photobooks into four regionals, New York, Europe, Middle America, and Misfits, the last one being a catch-all category for books that don't easily fit somewhere else.

Here's how the bracket looks:

Please take a minute to look at it. If you want to play along as we go, print it out, fill in your selections, pin it up next to your NCAA bracket, and see how many winners you've picked six weeks from now.

As a disclaimer I will say up front that the selection, seeding, and (sometimes fuzzy) regional bracketing is arbitrary. Everyone will have their own choices of seminal photobooks. These are my choices culled from Roth's choices. They run heavy on American and European titles, and they're all from a specific time period. Honestly a large chunk of these titles I haven't even seen in person. In those cases I went mostly on reputation and whatever I could dig up online. So be it.

Each week on Wednesday morning, I'll post pairings in the sidebar to the right. Readers will have one week to cast votes for the "best" book by clicking on the radio button near each selection. How to determine what makes one book better than another is up to you. Design, editing, historic influence, object as craft, and author's reputation are some things you might want to consider in addition to the photographs themselves, but there's no exact formula.

If you don't know a particular book don't get too hung up on it. For most of the books listed, you'll find plenty of online information to supplement whatever you already know. But feel free to vote for a book regardless of familiarity. As with any democratic process, this ain't science. Your gut counts too.

After you vote for each pairing the radio buttons will transition to a running vote tally so you can monitor which books are leading, and go back to change your vote if you want.

At the end of each week on Tuesday evening I'll tabulate results and post new pairings the next morning. The tournament should last 6 weeks, with the winner announced in late April.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Slim Slow Slider

The images coming out of Japan continue to stun. I suppose this is what happens when an epic natural disaster occurs in an astral week and place occupied by many cameras. Gruesome footage will ensue. Which sucks but at least it's keeping Japan where it belongs: in our thoughts.

I was drawn in particular to this graphic in today's NYTimes. With a simple slider, one can toggle spatially between before and after photos of specific sites. This is the first time I've seen this technology, and I'm impressed. It's very smooth and powerful, and simple enough for a child to grasp. I used it today to show my kids what happened in Japan. I can imagine all sorts of future applications for rephotographic projects, or maybe even non-rephotographic ones.

If somehow you haven't yet heard, Wall Space has organized a photographic fundraiser for Japan relief. A good cause aimed at curing bad effects.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Three things we could use more of

A good eye. Color photographs printed by hand in a darkroom. Bargain prices. Missy Prince's new print offer scores a rare trifecta.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Unsold on Facebook

In the late nineties my extended family set up an account through MyFamily to stay in touch with one another via a central message board. A few years later, some of my high school alumni did the same thing via Classmates. And shortly after that I got involved with several photography-related message boards.

In each case these boards provided an invaluable service. They let me communicate with people all over the world with common interests whom I'd rarely if ever see in person. These were the early days of social media, and I found the connections very useful and enjoyable.

Then along came Facebook, which very quickly assumed the gravity of a black hole. Instead of posting messages to various private message boards, people posted to Facebook. And as more people looked to Facebook for news, more people posted there and the cycle fed itself, to the point where there are now 600 million users. It's become a utility, at least in the developed world. Phone service, electricity, water, Facebook, etc. Participation is expected.

Initially I was reluctant to join, but last year I succumbed. If I wanted to keep up with people I had to, or else retreat to my virtual desert island. So I signed up, and before long Facebook had become integral to my routine. Instead of turning to MyFamily for family news, I logged onto Facebook. High school friends found me through Facebook. Recently, it seems that Facebook has become a primary source of photography news.

The beauty of Facebook is that it's a one stop convenience. It's the WalMart of message boards, offering everything and anything. Family news, hometown news, photo news, you got it, all in one place.

The curse of Facebook is that, like WalMart, it tends to squeeze out the smaller guys. The Myfamily site mentioned above has become relatively inactive. Classmates? Folded into another site. The activity on some photography message boards seems to be shrinking. Why waste time with other sites when you can find it all on Facebook? So gradually the little mom-and-pop online communities on virtual main street are being forced to the sidelines.

The next frontier might be photoblogs. As The New York Times and Ofer Wolberger have recently speculated, Facebook may have begun to supplant blogs as an outlet for daily updates, show announcements, links, and even photography portfolios (despite well publicized caveats). Amy Stein, one of the original vanguard of photobloggers, may have echoed the general trend in recent comments on SIP: "I don’t really read blogs anymore. There is too much noise and redundancy. I mostly rely on the people I trust to find the good stuff and post it to Twitter and Facebook."

Even photoblogs running longer essays, which Facebook cannot totally replace due to space limitations, will often run a Facebook link in conjunction with posts. This further incentivizes the one-stop mentality. You check Facebook first. If a description interests you, you link to the blog for an expanded essay. The photoblog becomes secondary to Facebook, if it hasn't yet been replaced by it.

Facebook is so big that, like the web itself, it has splintered into affinity groups. These serve the same role as blogs or message boards, but they're subsets of the Facebook empire. Sometimes these groups work rather well. Friends of Vivian Meier is a good example. It's a great central clearinghouse for Maier-related links. Five years ago this group would probably have been organized through a blog or discussion board. Now it's on Facebook.

Whether or not Facebook will eradicate blogging is an open question. I'm guessing it won't, but even if it doesn't it has changed the playing field. Andy Adams posed the Facebook v blogging question last summer on —where else?— Facebook. Most commenters at the time guessed that blogging would survive. But eight months is a long time on the internet. Since that discussion, Facebook has gained 100 million new users while the photoblogging community seems to have lost some steam.

Adams has been at the forefront of the shift. He has been quite active on Facebook, using it as a platform either for simple links or to generate extended discussions. His most recent Facebook venture, Flak Photo Network (FPN), is an interesting experiment in community building. The premise is to collect a wide swath of photographers into one place, weed out the non-photo stuff, and form a Facebook bulletin board for photo-related topics. If successful, it would accomplish the elusive holy grail of the internet: a centralized source of focused information.

Has it succeeded? Yes and no. Yes it's weeded out the non-photo posts, but what's left is a little too broad to be useful, at least for me. Do I really need to know about some opening in St. Louis, or that so-and-so is a finalist in Contest X? A Google search for "Photography News" might provide a similarly broad list of tips, and perhaps such a list might be valuable to others. For me it's information overload.

Perhaps that's where photoblogs or sites like HCSP still have the edge over Facebook. They can cater to very specific interests. They are the neighborhood shoe store to Facebook's WalMart.

But I think the main turn-off of FPN for me is that many of the group's listings are self-promotional. On the one hand I see the reasoning. Everyone needs a place to hang their shingle, and a site frequented by photo-geeks is as good a place as any. But as a reader, seeing promo after promo gets old. Instead of a photographer's forum, it feels like the floor of the Chicago Mercantile. Opening! Closing! Buy! Sell!

After reading a few group postings, I decided to have some fun with it. I added my own Buy-Sell.

Note this is a real ad. I do have this truck (my father-in-law's) for sale. Part of what I was playing on here is the sheer diversity of the group. How far could a post be stretched and still be photo-related?

A few days later I added another.

Again, this is a real ad (taken from the local paper). Now I was just being mischievous, to see what reaction I might get. Not much. A few Likes. Oh well.

My next post ran a few days later:

I thought this was suitably mysterious. A helicopter ad seemed like the last thing you'd expect to see in this group. Surely someone would be curious? Nope.

I was. I was curious how people would treat a post whose motivation was inscrutable. Because when it comes down to it, isn't that the premise of art? It doesn't necessarily have a function or purpose or easy understanding. It can thrive (not that it always does) comfortably outside of the market, and it's one of the very few things in life that can.

Time to play on that idea. The last post was a more direct pitch, whether to someone's pocketbook or their inner trickster I'm not sure.

OK, at this point I was probably just being a dick but I couldn't help myself. It's my self destructive streak.

Response was limited. The only reply was from Gordon S., who wanted to sell me an idea on consignment. It sounded like a great idea and it was in good shape too. But I just couldn't do it. I can't make any purchases before that dump truck is sold on Facebook.

As for me, I'm still not sold on it.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Saturday, March 5, 2011

In a weird mood today

Text from Frederick Sommer, pg. 210. Artwork by Jim Davis.

Addendum 3/6/11: Joe Reifer chimes in with a sans Garfield panel.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Dimitri Mellos: What Was He Thinking?

Dimitri Mellos is a photographer based in New York City.

West 55th St & 5th avenue, NYC, 2010

"I am interested in pictures that don't provide easy answers and narratives, but rather create ambiguity and a sense of mystery. I am also fascinated by a sense of interiority that people can emit even in the midst of the most crowded and public spaces. I noticed this woman approaching, and what immediately caught my attention was the glistening plastic spoon she was holding upright, like a tiny flagpole, even though she did not seem to be eating anything. She seemed lost in thought. In the instant it took me to put the viewfinder to my eye, the man in the left entered the frame, and I knew that this would be one of those really serendipitous moments when an unexpected element makes the composition all that much more interesting. I try to invite such unexpected intrusions in the frame when shooting in crowded streets, by always using a wide lens, instead of trying to isolate an ostensible 'main subject' in a photograph. "

Near Ground Zero, NYC, 2009

"This was taken on the pedestrian pathway along the north side of the Ground Zero site in lower Manhattan. It was late afternoon and the light was golden and beautiful, and I shot several frames of commuters on their way home. I noticed this man approaching and I was immediately drawn to his slightly old fashioned fedora - however, as he got nearer, he lowered the hat over his eyes, either to avoid me photographing him, or to shield his eyes from the low sun. For a split second I was frustrated that his face was now covered, but luckily in a sudden flash of inspiration I realized that, in fact, his gesture made for a much more interesting picture. This is one of my favorite photographs, but it also makes me sad to think that the beautiful afternoon light would not have been able to reach this wall if the Twin Towers were still standing."

West 27th St, NYC, 2009

"I noticed this guy with the striking nose bandage, and realized that he probably had had a nose job. What made the image more striking for me was that he was also wearing this bright white raincoat. Luckily, he seemed to be waiting for someone so he lingered around this corner for a few minutes; this gave me the opportunity to shoot four or five frames. In situations like this I am always conflicted between my wish to take a potentially good picture, and my guilt about possibly hurting someone's feelings or making them feel embarrassed, so I try to be as discreet as possible. So I tried to create a composition in which the guy with the bandage would be somewhat in the background, but still clearly noticeable. The man with the white beard and the young black woman in the front provided me with two perfect foils against which to juxtapose the man with the nose bandage. My only regret is that if I had waited another split second, the blonde woman in the left of the frame might have been more visible, which would have balanced the composition out even more successfully."

Lower Broadway, NYC, 2009

"This picture more than any other epitomizes my feelings and aspirations about street photography. I believe that the conjunction of the photographic gaze with chance and happenstance is essential to the genre, as is an emphasis on the evanescence of the found moment. I was struck by how the face of the girl in the foregound was almost uncannily mirrored by that of the woman on the right, and how the poster in the middle provided a kind of foil for both. Luckily I managed to take the picture quickly enough, before their facial expressions changed. No matter how many times I have looked at this photograph, I am always somewhat surprised and delighted that life can create such coincidences. "

West 33rd St, NYC, 2010

"I was intrigued by the gaze of this woman - it looked as if she was almost sleepwalking. What made the image more interesting to me was the apparent incongruity between her dazed, somewhat vacant gaze, and the fact that she was holding some leaflet she was reading while walking. Also, the detail that there is a repeated portrait of a couple on the leaflet makes this element more formally interesting. Generally, I am struck by the immense proliferation of photographic images in the shared public space of cities, and I try to include such representations and enter into a kind of dialogue with them in my own photographs. "

Wall St, NYC, 2009

"Because of its architectural structure and layout, New York is fascinating in terms of the interplay of light and shade. There are spots where there is direct sunlight only for a very brief period of time every day. I have noticed such an ephemeral 'lightwell' right outside the New York Stock Exchange, and I occasionally try to go there in the early afternoon to photograph. It is usually hard to make good pictures there, because the place is teeming with tourists (not my favorite photographic subject). But on this one occasion I was lucky. I particularly like this picture because it is literally made out of nothing; all its constituents are in themselves pretty ordinary and insignificant. I am generally wary of the kind of street photography that focuses on weird or eccentric people or funny situations for effect - I prefer pictures that are more understated, and show how the ordinary can be transformed into something enchanting when photographed. "

West 49th St, NYC, 2010

"II always try to go out and photograph when there is a parade - I have no interest in the parades themselves, but what goes on on the sidelines is always ripe with photographic potential. This was taken during last year's St. Patrick's Day parade, along 5th avenue. I like the Janus-like composite of the two male figures in the middle, and the way there is someone who seems to be hovering above the crowd in the background. This was one of those lucky moments when everything in the frame seems to fall into place, and the chaos of the street is momentarily organized into a photograph."

Spring St, NYC, 2010

"This is one of those pictures where, even though I paid meticulous attention to the composition of the frame, what really resonates with me is not so much the formal qualities of the picture but the content. I noticed this boy waiting for an ice-cream, and was struck by how lost in his own microcosm he seemed to be, tenderly cuddling his muppets. This seemed to me like a really evocative image of childhood. But even more than the boy's expression, my favorite element in the photograph is the man's silhouette in the shop window - my indirect homage to Cartier-Bresson's Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare."