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.