Friday, December 21, 2007

The New Frugal Traveler Video

This time, it's set in a city I have actually visited. Here is the new episode of the Frugal Traveler: Santa Fe, New Mexico

Frugal Traveler, Santa Fe

It's been a tough week. Things move forward, though, when possible. Here is a new episode of the Frugal Traveler series: Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Blowup Reaches Middle-Age

Yesterday marked the 41st anniversary of the release of the film Blowup. I watched it again last year -- for a paper I had to write -- and I'm tempted to give it another look. ( now has it via their download store -- for your instant gratification. That's the blatantly commercial link below.)

The strange thing, I find, is that it's a movie that doesn't match the popular conception or the popular memory of it at all. On paper, it's about a David Bailey-styled photographer in swinging London, a murder mystery, and the uncertainty of perception. And, as parodied in "Austin Powers," there's a bit of fashion photography flair...

There's a deeper game built in, though, one that still plays well today. And that's what I think is worth returning to.

The Diane Arbus Archive

The news? Well, there's this press release from yesterday:

Metropolitan Museum Acquires Diane Arbus Archive
"(New York, December 18, 2007)—The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced today that it has acquired the complete archive of Diane Arbus (1923-1971), the legendary American photographer known for her revelatory portraits of couples, children, nudists, carnival performers, and eccentrics. The Estate of Diane Arbus has selected the Museum to be the permanent repository of the artist's negatives, papers, correspondence, and library. The Museum will collaborate with the Estate to preserve Arbus's legacy and to ensure that her work will continue to be seen in the context of responsible scholarship and in a manner that honors the subjects of the photographs and the intentions of the artist.

"The Estate's gifts and promised gifts to the Museum include hundreds of early and unique photographs by Arbus, negatives and contact prints of 7,500 rolls of film, glassine print sleeves annotated by the artist, as well as her photography collection, library, and personal papers including appointment books, notebooks, correspondence, writings, and ephemera. The entire collection - which will be preserved, fully catalogued, and eventually made available for research to scholars, artists, and the general public – will be known as The Diane Arbus Archive."

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Real Future of Photography

Many words have been spilled on that Newsweek article claiming there's a crisis in photography. In the end, there's nothing to worry about. Photography will go on. It just won't be humans behind the cameras.

'Wonderful Shot' Dog or Cat Camera for Pet Paparazzi
"Ever wonder what your pet gets up to when he or she's out & about, patrolling the neighborhood? Wonder no more - thanks to Japanese toy and gadget maker Takara Tomy, you now have a photographic record of their adventures in the wide wild world!

"The tough, light camera attaches to your pet's collar and weighs just 38 grams (under an ounce & a half), and it's no toy. The 3.5 megapixel camera has an 8 MB internal memory that allows up to 90 photos to be taken. Li'l Furball's first photo album'll be full in no time flat! The battery is rechargable and the adjustable timer can be set to snap a pic at 1, 3, 5, 10, 15, 30 or 60 minute intervals."
Do not miss the picture in this article. Follow that link, now.

Also, Rename the Show "Hair Dance"

Sure, I've said bad things about The Shot. Criticism is easy, though. The real question is: what would actually work in a reality-television show about photographers? What would be less painful to watch? Well, here are three ideas:
  1. Stop with the repetition. Each episode is essentially the same, and people win and lose on the same exact concerns. Change things significantly from week to week. Photography is a broad and diverse art form, and even if the show is strictly "fashion photography" you can find the underlying skills and make challenges based on those.  

  2. Don't assume we won't understand the technical. A little bit of discussion of the technical side of photography, handled well, could really be interesting. Those knobs on the camera -- they do something, right?

  3. Stop just saying a photo is good or bad. Tell us how it works, and why you like it or hate it. Just giving a thumbs-up or down is boring -- why does this photo work, and not that one?
What would that be like? Well, for one assignment, set the expensive cameras aside, and get out of the studio. Drop off photographer and model on a grimy block with a disposable camera, a roll of aluminum foil and a cardboard box. For the next, emphasize shooting consistency by choosing at random which shot will be shown. For the next, show five great possibilities for the shot at hand -- and disallow all of them and penalize anything at all similar.

Northern Exposure

In the film Idiocracy it's revealed that the favorite film of the year 2505 will be a continous, 90-minute-long shot of a man's buttocks -- sort of a dumbed down version of Andy Warhol's 1965 film Taylor Mead's Ass.

Now Canadian television has taken the first steps toward that epic, and billed the adventure as an homage to photographer Spencer Tunick.

Nude St. John's waterfront TV shoot attracts 50
"Walsh intends to organize more naked film shoots across Canada. She said her next stop is Calgary, where she expects temperatures will be even lower than they were in St. John's. Other stops include Vancouver, Iqaluit and Toronto."

Photography in the News

Any stories on photography in the recent news? Well, there's a good look at the Magnum photo agency, a glance at the growing maternity photography industry, and when Britney Spears isn't running over photographers, she's complaining about them.

The world according to Magnum
"Born in 1947, Magnum was founded by four very different photographers, Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, George Rodger and David Seymour. However, they shared a common desire to create a new agency, owned and operated by photographers: its purpose, to document world events and issues and show the photograph to be as powerful a method of journalism as the word. It would also provide an invaluable historical archive."

Growing Demand To Bare The Belly
"It's been almost 17 years since Demi Moore posed nude for Vanity Fair in 1991. Britney Spears reawakened the image when she posed for Harper's Bazaar in 2006. Those visions clearly resonated with many women. When Francesca Mannarino-Werz saw the Demi Moore pictorial, she was struck by its beauty. She had her photos taken by Reyes six weeks before she gave birth to her son Mason, now eight months."

Spears hits out at photographers
"Yesterday, a friend of the pop princess said poor health and "anxiety" caused by seeing photographers outside her house had resulted in Spears cancelling a deposition in the court case where she is seeking to regain equal custody of her two sons."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Beauty Knows No Pain

I asked Elliott Erwitt where I could see the documentaries he had made, and he said that Beauty Knows No Pain could be found at "National Something or Other."

And it looks like he is correct. And also that the piece can be viewed online. Excellent.

The Vaguest Good News in an Unspecified Number of Days

Good news yesterday, arriving all at once.

I'll have to be vague about the details until there are "official announcements," however ... so it's time for Blind Item Gossip Blogging!

What East-Coast photoblogger will show three photographs in a Southern California exhibition in 2008? Sources say it's the same cynical Manhattan-based documentarian whose short film will be showing at a Documentary Film Festival in February -- in a state that rhymes with "Fontana."

Wait -- is it Michael Moore?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Elliott Erwitt

I'll post about what he said and how he said it sometime very soon. For now: meet Mr. Elliott Erwitt.

On the Way to Elliott Erwitt

I mean physically on the way, not stylistically. Above: on 14th Street, earlier tonight.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Last of Santa

For now, a moratorium on Santa. One last note: he does know how to party.

Elliott Erwitt Will Be at Strand Tonight

Tonight, I'm hoping to stop by the Elliott Erwitt booksigning at Strand Books. If you can't make it, you should consider adding his last two books: Personal Best and Unseen to your photography bookshelf.

And Sometimes Nice

Above: near Tompkins Square Park.

Naughty by Nature

Santa's Nicomachean world view may seem overly simplistic -- I think there are shades of Naughty and Nice -- but it does make sense in light of his career choice. He's got to be all about efficiency. He has one big yearly task, and limited time.

There's a Sociology Thesis In It

I noticed less of an Elf presence at this year's SantaCon. The number of male Elves was way down, at least. I'm not sure if that's a significant indicator of a social trend or not.

Be Glad the Elves Didn't Get There First

If you come to SantaCon to photograph, you probably should be dressed as Santa. It's a participatory event.

Above: a group of Santas decorate a photographer.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Tompkins Square Again

If you think about it, Santa's the original Jet Setter.

Takes most of the year off, then flies around the globe for his world promotional tour, just so you don't forget him. Hires a really good publicist, and before long it's "Saint" Nick, and 87% of the public perceive him as "jolly."

Sunday, December 09, 2007

SantaCon 2007 New York

Above: SantaCon 2007 makes its way towards Times Square.

The Shot: Do They Mean Penicillin?

Yes, I watched Sunday's episode of "The Shot." What do you mean, "Lame, lame, lame?"

Are you saying that just because they plan to give money and fame to photographers who can't operate studio lights, crop properly, or work with other human beings? You're awfully strict. Next you'll want them to know about lenses and composition and exposure.

Clearly, you need some Vaseline.

One More from Grand Central

I tried to persuade a few Santas that they should visit the Campbell Apartment, but they headed into the dining concourse instead.

SantaCon at Grand Central Terminal

Above: A few hundred Santas and a few hundred tourists at Grand Central Terminal.

On the Street in Manhattan

There are a lot of cameras at SantaCon. You see people asking others to pose, and that's fine.

I think, however, it is in the unposed moment that you learn about human behaviour.

Tompkins Square Park

The thing people forget about Santa is that -- basically -- it's a noble gig. Make a lot of stuff, give it away. Not necessarily financially sustainable, but noble.

The Long Arm of the Law

Above: Santas and the NYPD.

Santa Takes the Six

When the attendees at SantaCon move from one site to another -- after the "Santa's on the move!" call begins -- usually there are just a few people who know the next location and the best way to get there, and most of the group follows along.

Our next destination was Astor place, a stop I've been to many times. I hadn't heard that, though, only the "Santa Takes the Six!" chant that went through the crowd. Most of the Santas waiting for the 6 train tried to dissuade those jumping on the 4 or 5 -- thinking they were making a mistake -- so confusion reigned.

Above: the 4 train going past our group of Santas, waiting for the 6.

SantaCon 2007

Ah, SantaCon. The one time of year when stockbrokers and ex-theater majors can put on a red suit, or tights and a wig, drink a lot, and attempt to pick up other stockbrokers and ex-theater majors.

Okay, maybe not the only time, but certainly one of the times.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Dogs of The Upper East Side

Dog walkers, as far as I can see, group dogs by size when given a choice. I suppose that has to do with keeping the pace even when walking, and keeping order within the pack. At least, that's my guess. Above photograph from about 1 p.m. today.


Should you fear Santa? Yes. Here's photographic evidence.

The Red Menace

Tonight, probably around 11 p.m., the starting location for SantaCON will be announced. You can bet I'll be checking it twice.

Above: SantaCON 2005.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Inside Looking Out

As far as I know, the window washers never make it to the 24th floor.

Outside Looking In

Above: a snapshot from 3rd Avenue.

Photography in the News

Any news stories about photography in the major newspapers? You bet.

New York City sued for harassing photographers
"The lawsuit was filed against the city and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly on behalf of Arun Wiita, 26, a Columbia University graduate student of Indian descent who said he was handcuffed and detained after a police officer spotted him snapping pictures near a Manhattan subway station in July."
Work With Me, Baby
"FASHION is a stepchild, in photography no less than in other areas of the culture. The reach of the imagery it produces influences everything from trash television to presidential campaigns. Yet the slick work cranked out by the fashion machine is rarely taken seriously."

Saturdays in Red

On Saturday, I will be at NYC SantaCON 2007. It's been great fun in past years. If you are going, drop me a comment.

Happens in other cities as well.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Fake, Real, Fake, Whatever

I don't care if it's fake -- again, all photographs are fake -- I just want to know if it's good art.

Chinese Moon Photo Not Fake, But Not Pristine
"It's odd that moon images are so often questioned. We can do so many other things that stagger the imagination; why are people reluctant to believe that we can't go to the Moon? I find it also particularly interesting that many people are apparently willing to believe something so improbable (faking a moon mission? That's serious business, way harder than faking a memoir or a resume)."

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Same Hand

Is this by the same person who did this? Notice the handwriting. And the exclamation point....

Face, Meet Palm

It's FacePalm time! That's right: toss the palm of your hand over your face, and repeat after me: Not This Crap Again.

Is Photography Dead?
"Art and truth used to be fast friends. Until the beginning of modernism, the most admired quality in Western art was mimesis—objects in painting and sculpture closely resembling things in real life. William Henry Fox Talbot, who produced the first photographic prints from a negative in 1839, immediately saw the mimetic new medium as an art form. Talbot wanted only to be able to "draw" more accurately than by hand. In fact, he called his first book of reproduced photographs "The Pencil of Nature." For at least a century thereafter, any photograph with a claim to being art had in its DNA at least a few chromosomes from Talbot's "The Open Door" (1844), a picture of a tree-branch broom leaning just-so-esthetically against a dark doorway."
I've said again and again that thinking that a flat, black and white rectangular representation of a fraction of a second is a "true" thing -- when we know the world to be three-dimensional, in color, and continuous -- is a pointless way to relate to photographs.

Yet in this week's Newsweek Magazine, here's this essay.... It's real achievement: misunderstanding both the history of art AND the history of photography. Usually, at best one can be completely wrong about one or the other. At least in the same essay.

Trends in Photography

The hot trend in photography? The anonymous blog.

Now, I happen to think anonymity turns people into the worst version of themselves -- visit any Web forum if you want to discover that for yourself -- but I do understand the impulse to blog freely, with the minimum of consequences.

And I'm all for any site that talks about photography or visual culture. So take a glance at:

Bitter Photographer
A Photo Editor
A Visual Society

Still, the test for me is always: What Would Elliott Erwitt Do? I'm pretty sure he'd put his name in his profile.

Maysles in the Gossip Pages?

Yes. Because he hangs with Fall Out Boy.

Burnside Avenue Station

My experience of The Bronx is a strange one: I arrive on the 4 train, walk a few blocks on West Burnside, and teach my class at Bronx Community College.

I'm vaguely aware of facts about the area: it's the poorest urban county, the U.S. census says the population is 51% Latino (primarly Puerto Rican and Dominican), and there is a strong connection to Africa. I hinted at that last fact in my post on Lucky Dube, and it has become a visual fascination for me: there are traces, but they blend in and become muted.

Wikipedia says:
"West Africa is the most frequent region of origin for immigrants to the Bronx. U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service data shows that in 1996, about two-thirds of those Ghanaians arriving in the United States, and nearly three-fourths of those naturalized, live in The Bronx. Many have clustered in Bronx communities, including Morris Heights, Highbridge, and Tremont."
Morris Heights is the area just below Bronx Community College.

Above: Burnside Avenue Station on Monday morning, looking toward Manhattan.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Near Burnside Avenue

Shock at SA reggae star shooting
"Correspondents say the killing of the 43-year-old singer has shocked South Africans who are already accustomed to one of the highest murder rates in the world. Music producer TK of TS records and a friend of Dube's told the BBC the killing was tragically ironic."
There have been stories lately noting that New York's murder rate has dropped to a new low. If there's one place where a murder in South Africa will enter the New York mind, however, it's The Bronx.

Above: photographed just off Burnside on Monday.

Fall, Winter, Fall, Whatever

Yesterday's dusting of snow was gone by this morning, leaving a clear, beautiful and cold day. Now, at nightfall, the cold winds have started. According to the weather report, the "feels like" will dip to 18 degrees Fahrenheit overnight, staying cold tomorrow morning.

Above: Carl Schurz Park on Sunday.

Photography Advice from "The Shot"

I've mentioned that I have been happily suffering through VH1's "The Shot." Well, now they've posted photo tips.

In case a food fight breaks out, and then the nude models show up.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Harsh, Yet Well Written

Ah, Yorkville. Home to some of the best private schools in the world. Sometimes the message may be harsh, but the penmanship fantastic.

No little heart dotting the "i" and no "o" filled in by a smiley face?

That is Not What "White Balance" Means

This is the strangest photography-related story I've run across in a while. I've tried to understand the thinking behind it, and the process of how it might have happened, and I'm left puzzled.

Pupils forced to pose for school photo according to skin colour
"A school apologised today after telling tearful children to line up for a photograph by the colour of their skin. Parents condemned the decision by Sandhurst Junior School in Lewisham, south London, to arrange the children from the lightest skinned to the darkest. One parent claimed the intention had been to make life easier for the photographer - so he did not have to keep rearranging his reflector screens."

Finally: Frederick Wiseman Films on DVD

Finally, you can buy the films of Fred Wiseman on DVD.

To go along with your DVDs, grab and read Five Films by Frederick Wiseman: Titicut Follies, High School, Welfare, High School II, Public Housing.

Dogs of Yorkville

I stumbled onto this noble pack of snow pugs on 89th Street. If they find you stranded in a drift, they revive you by peeing on you.

The one in the background? He's about to revive that bike tire.

Snow Arrives in Yorkville

Ah, Yorkville. A boy came up to me and showed me the first snowball of the season.

In his imagination, I was taking one photo. In mine, another.

Grab One Corner and Shake

I think folks forget that the instant feedback one gets from digital photography -- "Hey, look at that. Now let's try this...." was also a part of making Polaroid photographs. Shooting with a 35mm film camera meant you wouldn't really know what you had for at least an hour, but watching a photo develop in front of your eyes was, as advertised, Instant Fun.

If you are feeling nostalgia for instant photography, you'll want to visit:

"We are building the biggest Polaroid-picture-collection of the planet to celebrate the magic of instant photography. So please seach your archives and attics and reactivate your Instant Cameras. This is the slamming comeback of Instant Photo Fun."

Photographs: 2007, Concept: 1987

Generally, newspaper coverage of photography as art emphasizes the photographer over the work. That makes sense, of course: a news story is generally "Who, What, Where" at a basic level.

Usually, this means we see the same stories over and over again: a photographer looks back on a long career, a photographer's new show is controversial, or -- increasingly -- a photographer has somehow become favored by celebrities, and has put forward a new book or show that "reveals" a number of famous people.

The sell: see Whoopi Goldberg in a tub of milk.

Today's Daily News has a very vague article about a photographer who manages to fake that revelation:

Photographer puts fake celebs in focus
"I'm very interested in our fixation with celebrity and how we think we know them intimately, but we only know them through photographs and the media imagery. So I thought if I got a look-alike and replaced the celebrity, does it matter to us whether they are real or not? And is the look-alike more important than the actual person? The look-alike is accessible, but the actual celebrity is untouchable. We fantasize about celebrities so much, and yet when we meet them we are starstruck and we can't say anything."
(Sometimes people use the word "we" without checking first, but let's let that go.)

The book is Alison Jackson: Confidential in case you have unmet fake celebrity needs.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Fred McDarrah, 1926 - 2007

Fred McDarrah, 81, photographer of Beat Generation
"It was at The Voice that he built the reputation which quickly fanned out to an almost encyclopedic photographic coverage of artists, writers, poets, novelists, playwrights, actors, musicians, politicians, aspirants, characters, flotsam and jetsam of what was even then a great deal more than its journalistic label of “Beat Generation.” It all added up to an unbelievable 200,000 separate photographs — separate images — over the years."

Last Night's Screening

Over at Actualities I've posted a brief report on last night's screening.

At Downtown Community Television

When I was in high school, I was an avid reader, and there was a brief flurry of books about young New Yorkers. I became fascinated by the city, picturing raw spaces filled with artists. The newspapers of the time, however, were overflowing with stories of a high crime rate and few jobs, so it didn't seem like a place I could go.

Last night, however, I felt I had a glimpse back into that time. The screening at DCTV far exceeded my expectations.

The program was excellent -- I liked every film in it, and was very surprised and impressed by several. The space was edgy -- picture where firetrucks would be parked, but with folding chairs and a high-quality digital projector -- and the crowd was very hip. All the tickets sold out, and every seat was filled.

There was free beer.

Above: Man with Chair Versus Woman with Whipped Cream.

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Online Audience

The video I made for NYIP on the recent Photo Contest has passed 2,000 views. It's a strange thing: 100 views a day doesn't seem like very much, until you realize that the Internet is on and available every day, 24 hours. So the first few days, you shrug. A few hundred.

If a video keeps going, however, soon the views are in the thousands. While that won't compare to broadcast audiences, it can be a significant number of people.

So the question becomes: what's the goal? I expect the screening tonight for "12th and 3rd in Brooklyn" will be a medium-sized audience. Is that better? Worse? Just different?

Philip-Lorca diCorcia Case Appeal Dismissed

I thought this had been settled a while back, but the appeals process takes a while, I suppose.

Case Over ‘Heads’ Photo Is Dismissed
"Do people walking down the street have a right of privacy against having their picture taken, without permission, for a gallery show? The Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, skirted that issue on Thursday when it cited procedural grounds to dismiss a lawsuit by an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man who had sued a photographer on religious grounds. The court did not address the privacy issues at the heart of the case."
If I'm understanding this, does that mean the privacy issues have not been adjudicated -- that the dismissal was based on the claim being filed too late?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Should You Attend NY Short Docs on Friday?

Yes you should. I'll be there. My film "12th and 3rd in Brooklyn" will be there. It's in Lower Manhattan, so it's probably on your way to the bar, anyway.

On Friday, Go To NY Short Docs

Yes. Go directly to NY Short Docs.

If you want to.

Which Qualifies You for the Harry Winogrand Medal

The phone rings. You stagger over to it. Who would call at such an early hour? The news, however, is great. You've just won the Friedlander award! Fantastic! Will you get to meet him? Lee Friedlander is one of your favorites, a legend in the field. He's amazing.

Umm, what? Her? Meet her? Marti who? Marti Friedlander? She's well-known in New Zealand?

Auckland photographer wins Friedlander award
'"I have chosen Edith as the inaugural recipient as I believe she has an exceptional talent," says Marti Friedlander. "I particularly like the way her photographic essays portray people and places that reveal New Zealanders and all their diversity."'
Might as well check out Marti Friedlander, New Zealand Photographer. Just in case you get that phone call.

They See Her Rollin' -- They Hatin'

I've been helping judge a photography contest this week, and I've come to one very specific conclusion: there are a surprising number of photographs of children stuffed into pumpkins.

Imagine: "Okay, honey, Mommy and Daddy are just going to put you into this pumpkin and take a picture, alright?" I spent hours looking at photographs showing kids sitting inside big pumpkins, head sticking out, or with the pumpkin around their torso and their little legs protruding out of legholes, usually with a pumpkin stem worn as a beret as well...

It took me a few shocked moments to remember the source of this barrage of vegetable / infant photography: that woman who puts lettuce on babies heads.

By coincidence, yesterday there was a little article on that very same photographer, who has now convinced herself she is best imagined as a rock star:

Anne Geddes details her triumph over self-doubt and skeptics
'Some time later she first suggested doing baby calendars to a London editor, who told her, "If I can give you some advice, just photographing babies is never going to work for you. You need to broaden your portfolio to include adults and animals." That memory prompts a dimpled smile on Geddes' face as she relates, "I have talked to that editor many times since and he often tells me his 'broaden your portfolio' advice now makes him feel like the guy who turned down signing the Beatles."'
Of course, simply being the Beatles of photography may not be enough for her: later the article describes her work as having progressed through distinct artistic phases. Picasso, watch your back.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


On Monday, I had my video editing class interview each other. Our topic: bad dancers. We shot with 2 Canon GL2s, one on a tripod and one handheld. A shotgun mic was setup on a stand, running into a BeachTek and into a GL2.

Today I had the footage from those interviews ready for them, and they started the process of getting to know the material, trying to find a beginning and an ending and the best bits, and trying to make order out of chaos.

Great fun. We'll see how the pieces turn out....

Still Fall

I may have been a little early with the talk of Winter. Today was clear and cold, but definitely more Fall than Winter.

Above: Bronx Community College around 9:15 this morning.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

For All Your Holiday Shopping Needs

Since there are some holidays coming up, you're probably wondering what to put on your list. Well, there's always Magnum Magnum, which hits stores on Friday.

That might be a little pricy, though.... So maybe Fashion Magazine by Alec Soth is the way to go. Yep, that will work.

Doesn't ship for 4 to 7 weeks, however....

Monday, November 26, 2007

From Fall to Winter

My Santa suit? I'm glad you asked. It's in the closet, back from the dry cleaners. It's ready to go.

Above: earlier tonight, East 89th and Lexington.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

3D Can Be 1D Worse Than Regular Bad Photography

Ah, yes, I did watch episode four of The Shot. A roomful of synchronized cameras, two fans going full blast, a huge lighting rig and some of the worst photographs ever. Amazingly painful to watch.

Is that why it's sponsored by Vaseline?

For those of you self-punishing enough to have seen it, here are some real lessons to take from it:
repeating "hair dance, hair dance" over and over again is not actually the same as having a plan for a shoot

claiming that the best fashion photographers are men is a sign you should look around at the field a bit more

having the hair look bad in a shoot that's about hair (and supervised by a hair guy and a photographer with great hair) may shows poor listening skills

if your photographs look exactly like those of the other six contestants, you're doing it wrong

The New Rules Comment Period

Over on Actualities I have an update on the proposed new rules for photography in New York City.

News Followup

This story, I expect, will continue to unfold. Will we ever hear the details?

AP Chief Slams Case Against Photographer
"We believe Bilal's crime was taking photographs the U.S. government did not want its citizens to see. That he was part of a team of AP photographers who had just won a Pulitzer Prize for work in Iraq may have made Bilal even more of a marked man," [AP President and CEO Tom] Curley wrote.

NY Short Docs on Friday

On Friday, go and see: NY Short Docs.

I'll be there, screening "12th and 3rd in Brooklyn." Bought my tickets today.

The Rules on NYC Photography and Videography

We are nearing the end of the comment period on the "new rules" proposed by the Mayor's Office regarding permits for photography and videography in New York. What should you do?

1. Read: The Rules, especially this paragraph on activity that will require a permit:
"Filming, photography, production, television or radio remotes occurring on City property, as described in subdivision (a) of this section, if such activity involves the obstruction of one or more lanes of a street or walkway of a bridge, or if such activity results in less than eight feet or one half of the width of a sidewalk or other public pedestrian passageway, whichever is greater, for unobstructed sidewalk use by pedestrian traffic."
2. Mail or email: your written comments to Mayor's Office Film, Theatre & Broadcasting, Communications Department, 1697 Broadway, New York NY 10019, or -- and I strongly encourage physical mail over email if you wish to be effective.

3. Attend: the public hearing at 10:00 AM on December 13, 2007, at the offices of the Economic Development Corporation, 110 William Street, 4th floor (between Fulton and John Streets).

Tickets for NY Short Docs

I've just purchased my tickets for Friday night's documentary screening:

NY Short Docs.

Here's how they list my film:
"12th & 3rd in Brooklyn (Ted Fisher | Brooklyn | 6:00)
In Park Slope, stickball is a cherished tradition. This slowly gentrifying neighborhood is home to men who have gone to bat on the same block 12th Street and 3rd Avenue for decades. This film offers an intimate portrait of the game and the unique brotherhood it forges among the players."
(I should mention that this film is made with Iris Lee and Maya Mumma, and -- as festivals sometimes do -- they've only listed me since I was the first name on the list.)

Here's a still image from the day we shot the film: On the Streets of Brooklyn.

There's a lot of good work on the program -- I've seen a few pieces that are screening -- so you should definitely go.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Found: Diane Arbus Photographs

Genuine Wonders From the Flea Circus: Photos by Arbus
"But when sorting through the pile, Mr. Langmuir found a note in a dog-eared datebook kept by Lucas that stopped him: “Diane Arbus, 131 ½ Charles St. WA 4 — 4608.” Then, he says, he looked again at some of the heavily flashed photographs of performers like Estelline Pike, a sword swallower, and DeWise Purdon, a man with no hands, and wondered: Could these possibly be early Arbus works? Or am I just dreaming?"
He wasn't dreaming. 21 of the photographs have been authenticated. I'm very eager to see these....

Documentaries in the News

Well, any news from the world of documentary production? I'm glad you asked.

RTÉ launches inquiry into cocaine claims
"The station, which has come under increasing pressure to defend the claims made in 'High Society', last night confirmed that it had launched an internal inquiry into the production and commissioning of the series, which is expected to be completed by the end of this week. ... Beleaguered RTE executives are standing by the author, who claimed a minister regularly abused cocaine -- even after it emerged yesterday that a recording used to substantiate that allegation doesn't exist."
Maker of Undercover Mosque documentary considers suing police
"It was "something of a surprise" when the West Midlands police issued a press release eight months after the programme was transmitted in January, accusing its producers of selective editing and distortion. ... "Our reputation was really seriously damaged by this. We're only a small company but we've done quite a lot in the last 15 years," said Henshaw."

Friday, November 23, 2007

Frugal Seattle

Over on Actualities I discuss editing the latest Frugal Traveler episode.

Oh, and there's some Thanksgiving-related fun as well.

Frugal Traveler: Seattle

There's a new episode of The Frugal Traveler posted. This one's on Seattle.

I had a very tough time with this edit, but in a way that's hard to explain. The short version: the main strategy with these pieces is to create a flow. We follow along from one event to the next, but -- since it really isn't the type of thing where we worry "Will he make it?" or "Can it be done in time?" or "What will he decide?" -- there isn't necessarily a driving conflict or goal, but instead a need to keep it interesting from one experience to the next. We go along for the ride, so it has to be an enjoyable ride.

And this time, though there was the usual collection of good material, there were a couple of spots where there were two problems happening at once -- and I just kept feeling there was no way to make the material and voiceover work together. I ended up, midway through the process, abandoning the first half and finishing the ending.

And then I sat there, staring at two big holes, realizing I still didn't see a way to reasonably smooth out the viewers path through the video. I had shots to cut to, but there were reasons why one shot couldn't cut to the next -- and the usual amount of this that happens just by chance was, unluckily, amplified.

Eventually, as I got to know the problem areas on a first-name basis, I found ways to close those uncloseable gaps. Steal a little from this shot, intended for a slightly different purpose, then change this one here, then try that one ... Eventually there were ways to keep the written shape of the piece intact, and to keep the viewer on a smooth, comprehensible path.

I think the final version is straightforward and simple, but getting there was a complicated and tough road.

Without Commentary

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Second Chance

I missed the Elliott Erwitt booksigning at ICP, and I've been kicking myself since. Luckily, there will be another, this time at Strand Books on Wednesday, December 12.

What Would Elliott Erwitt Do? Well, he would attend.

Photo History in the News

Are there any stories in the news about folks using nondestructive reflectance Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy to study the earliest color photographs? You bet, but first there's a story about a possible previously-unknown photograph of Abraham Lincoln.

Purported Photos of Lincoln at Gettysburg Discovered
"The photos show a man in a black suit and Lincoln's trademark "stovepipe" hat, looking away from the camera. Some experts say they believe the man is indeed President Lincoln, although not all are convinced."
Other experts believe it is actually a piece of blue fluff on the lens.

Was the Inventor of the First Color Photograph a Genius, or a Fraud?
"... the Rev. Levi Hill of Westkill, N.Y., claimed for the first time to have invented a way to produce naturally colored daguerreotypes, or Hillotypes, as they became known. When Hill refused to release the details of his process until a patent was filed, the profession denounced him as a fraud. In 156 years, no definitive evidence has been presented to suggest that Hill was or was not an imposter, until now."

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Cast Photo

Last Friday, I shot a little video aimed at That's the cast, above.

The strange thing is, shooting that sort of piece is really all documentary production technique. I used a Canon GL1 with a little BeachTek adapter underneath it. A wireless body microphone and a clip on lavalier microphone were cabled into the BeachTek, one to the left channel and one to the right. Half was shot on a tripod, the rest following the actors around.

The thing is, fiction film is really documenting acting that happens in front of the camera, isn't it?

Trailer Theory

I did a little unit with my video class on editing movie trailers. We looked at about 20 old horror film trailers, then some trailer mashups -- for example, one that makes "The Shining" look like a Romantic Comedy and one that makes "West Side Story" look like a zombie movie -- and finally a few contemporary trailers.

One of the big points: the old techniques of Persuasion still apply, not any that different from how Aristotle thought of them.

You appeal to the emotions, trying your best to show a viewer that they can identify with the characters in the film and that it will make them feel a certain way. You appeal to the viewer also based on the reputation of the filmmakers and the actors in the film and the reviews the film has received. And you make a case that the film is about something the viewer should care about and want to see.

Beyond this: the marketing folks insist: there must be five "movie moments" -- five images one would want to see, selling the experience of seeing the film.

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday

Just finished the next Frugal Traveler episode. It will run Sunday, so take a look at The New York Times then.

Genius of Photography

I've been watching The Genius of Photography on Ovation TV. It's a great series. Some of the camera work for the show seems strange to me -- perhaps a bit forced -- but the content is fantastic and well handled. And they got interviews from a wonderful group of people.

The only strange choice: the photographs are presented on a beige background.

The Short List

15 Docs Move Ahead in 2007 Oscar® Race
Beverly Hills, CA — The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences today announced that 15 films in the Documentary Feature category will advance in the voting process for the 80th Academy Awards®. Seventy pictures had originally qualified in the category.

The 15 films are listed below in alphabetical order:

“Autism: The Musical”
“Body of War”
“For the Bible Tells Me So”
“Lake of Fire”
“No End in Sight”
“Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience”
“Please Vote for Me”
“The Price of Sugar”
“A Promise to the Dead: The Exile Journey of Ariel Dorfman”
“The Rape of Europa”
“Taxi to the Dark Side”
“White Light/Black Rain”

Documentary Branch members will now select the five nominees from among the 15 titles on the shortlist.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Photography in the News

Any photography-related stories in today's news?

Well, there's this:

Kidman tells court she feared death during car chase with photographer
"Nicole Kidman was so scared by a photographer who chased her car across Sydney almost three years ago that she crouched down on the back seat and burst into tears, afraid of an accident like the one that killed Diana, Princess of Wales, the film star told an Australian court yesterday."
And this:

US seeks charges against AP photographer in Iraq
"The U.S. military will recommend criminal charges in Iraqi courts against an award-winning Associated Press photographer it accused of working with insurgents, the Pentagon said on Monday."
And, from the Maldives, there's this:

DRP Whitewash Fathin Finger To Photographer
"Aneesa said several colleagues had told her a "distorted" photograph of the Government MP, who is also a deputy minister, had appeared in the press. She said the photograph had been tampered with, complaining, "it has become common practice to malign Government officials and DRP members."

But the photographer, who does not wish to be named, has responded fiercely to the allegation that he doctored the photo. "It’s a 100% untrue. Look at the photos taken before and after, the scene outside the Majlis building is identical. Its not been faked at all.""

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Meanwhile, in California

Profluence member Linda G. will be screening her film "Double the Pleasure, Eight Times the Therapy" at the Vines Short Film Festival in Santa Monica.

The festival dates are October 28 through November 11; specific screening dates and times TBA.

Save the Date for NY Short Docs

I mentioned that our film 12th and 3rd in Brooklyn will be part of the NY Short Docs program. Here are the screening details:
"NY SHORT DOCS (Presented by DCTV & Rooftop Films)
Friday, November 30th, 2007 @ 7:30PM
$5/Advance Tickets; $7/At the Door

New York is home to some of the most innovative and inspired documentary filmmakers in the world. And on November 30th, DCTV & Rooftop Films are proud to showcase an evening of short documentaries about NYC made by NYC Filmmakers from the Rooftop & DCTV Communities."

People Paparazzi

Well, now that we have the news from the Maldives squared away, the question remains: who are these photographers who spend their days taking the pictures of people who don't want their pictures taken?

Apparently, now the answer is: everyone, all the time.

Everyone Wants to Be Taking Pictures
"In the two years since prosecutors in Los Angeles threatened to file felony conspiracy charges against photographers engaging in dangerous tactics, and started monitoring them more closely, complaints of egregious illegal conduct, like assault, trespassing and reckless driving, by paparazzi have decreased, said William Hodgman, the head deputy of Los Angeles County district attorney’s target crime division. But now, Mr. Hodgman said, celebrities are followed by more celebrity news media and what some photographers call “people paparazzi,” which has reignited the pursuit. “The celebrities don’t feel any safer,” he said."

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Friday, November 16, 2007

Where Hearts Were Entertaining June

Profluence member Dana B. is in the news for her upcoming documentary trip to Brazil:

Sambadendê will trek to its source
"The road trip sounds like a party. Seven band members on a bus playing their way through cities large and small, picking up local players along the way. Band members have enlisted the talents of New York-based documentary filmmaker Dana Bartle, who will accompany them and record interviews and performances by local artists, musicians, and cultural groups as they travel."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Screening at NY Short Docs

Remember that little film on stickball we made last fall? It's going back out into the world. Details soonish.

NY Short Docs

Just got an email from Maya: our short film "12th and 3rd in Brooklyn" will be screening at NY Short Docs on Friday, November 30th.

The night's program looks very good. I've seen "A Son's Sacrifice" and really liked it, and I may or may not appear in "Bubblebattle" since I was there at the event....

Also, congratulations to Chris Schuessler -- "DiFara's" will be screening too.

Photography in the News

It's been a tough day, partly caused by a problem with the plumbing in our building. So, I just thought I'd check the news quickly to see if there are any items on photography....

Well, there's this again. Actually, apparently it's the third time.

Spears runs over another photographer's foot
"This is the third time Spears has been involved in such an accident. Last month, she ran over the foot of another snapper, while doing the same to a Los Angeles County Sheriff deputy, who got his foot caught under the star's Mercedes. This is the latest in a string of traffic incidents for the 25-year-old, on Monday Spears was accused of leaving a paparazzo seriously injured after knocking him off his motorcycle."
I'm telling you: do not take pictures of Britney Spears.

The Monochromatic Angels of Parma, Ohio

Appearing as an anonymous video expert, I have now officially spoken out -- for all of two seconds -- that blue fluff is more common than blue ectoplasm, and that cameras don't actually record ghosts.

The Inside Edition story is here.

This Just In

Well, I've done my part.

While a stunningly large percentage of my fellow citizens continue to believe that cameras capture photographs of ghosts, I have now appeared on television -- for perhaps two seconds -- noting that blue fluff on the lens is a more likely theory than ectoplasmic blue mist or monochromatic angels.

Not that I'll change anyone's mind.

Inside Edition story here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I Mist It

I did not get to see the 6 p.m. showing of Inside Edition so I'm not sure if I'm on it or not. But note the otherworldly rectangle at the bottom of this snapshot: it baffles even the most confirmed skeptic.

Another snapshot over at New York Portraits.

At Inside Edition

Look. There. At the back of the photograph. Is that a blue mist?

Three Seconds of Immortality

I just went across town to be interviewed at Inside Edition. I believe I will be on tonight, for a very, very brief time. More soon.


I will probably be on "Inside Edition" tonight. Probably for less than three seconds, I expect. Details soon.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Yet More Photography in the News

This is from a few days ago, but worth noting. It brings up an interesting hypothetical: you're walking along, you see an arrest, you take a picture. Now, if a police officer tells you to stop, you stop. But what if, instead, they insist you give them the camera?

Man jailed in photo incident awarded $8,000
"An amateur photographer who was taken into custody last year after shooting pictures of two Seattle police officers making an arrest on a public street received an $8,000 settlement this week, the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington announced Thursday."

Photography in the News

Any photography-related items in today's news?

Well, it's just straight-up dangerous to photograph Britney Spears.
"A paparazzi chasing troubled pop star Britney Spears was injured when his motorcycle was struck by a car driven by another photographer, police said Tuesday."
My advice: don't do it.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Taking "The Shot"

Well, sure, the idea of a "reality" television show about photographers might have jokingly crossed your mind once or twice in the past.

But did you think it would be as bad as The Shot is?

I mentioned the show to some photographer friends, and they watched it, and I feel sort of bad for that. Still, I'll probably suffer my way to the end. A challenge to photograph a model and a monkey? Even if it's bad, it's good.

Eisensteinian Diminution

So, in my video editing class today I gave a lesson I've taught before: we take the famous "Odessa Steps" sequence from Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin -- 7 minutes and 19 seconds long -- and work to cut 30 seconds out of it without ruining it.

It's a great process, and for those of you who enjoy editing I suggest you give it a shot. (You can grab the Eisenstein film over at

In any case, every student has their own ideas of what shots are crucial to the edit, and which can go away. Sometimes people are very conservative -- just making shots shorter, but keeping them -- and sometimes they go right for elements you or I might say are critical to the story ... and cut them right out.

It never fails, however: at least one student misunderstands: "Here it is," they proudly say, "I cut it down to 30 seconds."

Pop Photo Flash

The video on the NYIP photo contest has received a link from Popular Photography -- so it will be interesting to see if that leads to a good number of viewers for the piece. There are no parachuting squirrels in the video, just folks talking about photographs and photography, so I'll be very pleased if it does well on YouTube....

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Photography in the News

Are there any photography-related items in the news?

Well, in Berlin 250 Leni Riefenstahl photographs were stolen. More importantly, at least for this blog:
"...300 works by American photographer Elliott Erwitt disappeared from a basement storage unit at the offices of Photo Estate GmbH, a subsidiary of Berlin gallery Camera Work AG, police said."
Here's the article.

What Would Elliott Erwitt Definitely, Definitely Not Do?

Elliott Erwitt would not put a booksigning he wanted to go to on his calendar, then forget to go.

Especially if he was someone else, and the booksigning was by Elliott Erwitt.

It's been a rough week all month.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Project No Way

Don't tell anyone, but I watched The Shot.
"Whether it's shooting on the deck of a schooner in the midst of a storm, or trying to get a supermodel to cuddle up to a Siberian tiger, our cast will face daunting tasks and obstacles that will test their talent, desire and drive to be the next great fashion photographer."

And then the Prequels Will Follow

Taped a new episode of "Photo Chick" today.

Episode One and Two continue on, with about 12,000 views between them on YouTube. That's not a huge number but -- if you've ever screened one of your films for thirty people, as I have -- it's a significant audience.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A Photography Contest

New video I made on the process of judging a photography contest. More details on the production over on Actualities.

New NYIP Video

Here's a new video I made for the New York Institute of Photography.

The logistics were:
shot with Canon GL1, using natural light until the day faded away (then a little tungsten bounce light was added to brighten the room a bit)

each contest judge was recorded with a lapel lavalier microphone, then the general judging was done with the built-in camera microphone

the piece was edited, minor goofs were fixed and especially sound clean up done (since it was in a room where it would have been terrible to turn off the air conditioner)

and a pristine H264 format MPEG 4 file was exported (with some experimenting, a very very clean output was produced with a file about 42MB in filesize)

this was then uploaded to -- where they have special elves that make it look very poorly compressed -- and totally low-resolution whenever there's a cross dissolve or a fade-out-fade-in dissolve
More on fixing those "minor goofs" later.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


I'm not sure why my photographs lately have had so much yellow and orange, but at least this one's honest about it.

New Frugal Traveler Video

Over at Actualities I have a few notes on editing the latest "Frugal Traveler" video. I've been very quiet on that blog, which is strange since so much of my time lately has been taken up with video projects and teaching video....

New York City Marathon, Part Five

Above: Surprise Attack, November 4, 2007.

Moving on Up

Upper East Siders are some of the nicest people on the planet. Their Kryptonite: inconvenience.

During the marathon, we saw the expected: folks getting massages while positioned so they could see out the shop window to watch the runners, the matching-pink-purse-and-dog-sweater set navigating First Avenue to get to their normal appointments, and the UES equivalent of tailgate parties. As well, we saw a surprising number of folks who spent the day supporting the runners along the sidelines, shouting names and clapping for hours.

The UES air, however, holds the idea that you should be able to get what you want, when you want. Why did the Upper East Sider cross the road? To get to the other side, in time for a play date.

Monday, November 05, 2007

New York City Marathon, Part Three

The city's pigeons were clearly troubled by the huge human migration up First Avenue. They circled in flocks, but eventually saw food on the ground and decided to brave the crowds of runners. They flew in and out of the race, often directly at runners.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

New York Marathon, Part Two

The first half of the day the crowds are upbeat. Some come out to cheer their friends, usually holding signs.

Later, as the run goes on, there's a very specific moment when the euphoric swell changes -- it becomes clear there's only a thin pained line of stragglers, fighting out each step. That's almost hard to watch as we sit there, eating pizza.

New York Marathon

The marathon travels up First Avenue, and so passes 1/2 block from my apartment, more or less. I overheard someone say we're near mile 15.

Above: Close Call, November 4, 2007.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Frugal Traveler: Chicago

There's a new Frugal Traveler video posted: Frugal Chicago.

Here's the strange thing about editing Frugal Traveler episodes: at the end of each one, after a process of watching a lot of footage over and over, I feel like I've been somewhere that I haven't actually been.

I find myself wanting to tell people about a place I haven't been, as if it were my own memory. It's a strange feeling.

Like Woodstock, but for Port-o-Sans

Sunday morning the New York Marathon will begin in Staten Island. In the hours before the start, thousands and thousands of runners will gather in a field, waiting anxiously.

They'll need portable toilets. Thousands and thousands of portable toilets.

Above: a snapshot from Saturday's visit to Staten Island.

There Should Be Some Sort of Ceremony

Well, today I am a true New Yorker. I've made it to my final borough: Staten Island.

Sort of, anyway. Got there via taxi. Stood in a field for a while. Took a bus to the Ferry. Left on the Ferry. That counts, though.

Above: a woman sketching on the subway, seen on the way back.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Shadow of a Doubt

Errol Morris finishes his search for knowledge in two Roger Fenton photographs.

The Rocks Have Names

Well, Errol Morris is at the end of his three-part pursuit of Photographic Truth in two old photos.

Do not attempt to read this if you are in a hurry...

Newer New Rules

Finally, there's some news on those proposed new rules on photography and videography here in New York.
"The proposal would allow photographers and filmmakers who are not using vehicles or equipment like dolly tracks, lights and cables to proceed without permits on public property as long as they stay out of traffic and their activities do not prevent public use. The rules would also allow photographers and filmmakers to commandeer a portion of a public walkway without a permit, as long as they leave open at least half of its width, or eight feet, whichever is greater."

Update on the "New Rules"

An update on the status of new regulations on photography and videography in New York.
"The rules, to be released on Tuesday for public comment, would generally allow people using hand-held equipment, including tripods, to shoot for any length of time on sidewalks and in parks as long as they leave sufficient room for pedestrians."
More details Tuesday....

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Midtown Cinderella

That tiny black speck on the roof, one-third from the top of the photograph? That's a woman's shoe.

There are some cigarette butts near it. Probably a grand story also, but I'm afraid I don't know it. Or I'd share it with you.

Friday, October 19, 2007

PhotoPlus Friday

I went to PhotoPlus Expo this afternoon. Strobes, softboxes, stands; backgrounds, bare bulbs, batteries; cases, cards and cameras.

Touched some Nikons, some Canons, the new Sony Alpha.

The Sony booth had one or two models posing at all times, and when two worked together, a crowd formed of a dozen men, surging forward. The cameras had huge zooms mounted on them, thick and long. (You need two hands to handle them properly, really.) The men would sometimes look at each other, comparing, then point them at the models and blast away.

I walked around the corner and tried out a Sony 28mm F2.8. When I asked to see it, the salesman put a big zoom lens on the camera instead and smiled. "No, the 28mm prime," I said. "Oh," he said. "No one has asked to see that before." It's a very unsexy lens. Not fast, not expensive. Snubnose and light. Invisible.