Sunday, March 30, 2008

Bend & Bow Premiering at HotDocs

Our film "Bend & Bow" will have its world premiere at HotDocs Canadian International Film Festival on Saturday, April 26th at 9:30 p.m. It will screen with 13 other International Documentary Challenge finalists, and the winning films will be announced.

It looks like all six members of Profluence will be attending, so come say hello. Get your tickets early, though -- last year's event was sold out.

Bend & Bow at HotDocs

Our film "Bend & Bow" will have its world premiere at HotDocs Canadian International Film Festival on Saturday, April 26th at 9:30 p.m. It will screen with 13 other International Documentary Challenge finalists, and the winning films will be announced.

It looks like all six members of Profluence will be attending, so come say hello. Get your tickets early, though -- last year's event was sold out.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Doc Challenge Finalists

Here are the finalists for the International Documentary Challenge. (We are team number 5 on the list.) I'm really looking forward to the screening -- last year's event was sold-out.
1. All The Eights, 88
Team: Sholi
City/Country: Sydney, Australia
Genre: Biography/Character Study

2. Ars Magna
Team Juicebox
City/Country: Seattle, WA, USA
Genre: Biography/Character Study

3. The Art of Balance
Team: Surge Media
City/Country: New York, NY, USA
Genre: Sports

4. Beholder
Team: Boss and Coder 34
City/Country: Brooklyn, NY, USA
Genre: First Person

5. Bend & Bow
Team: Profluence Productions
City/Country: Brooklyn, NY, USA
Genre: Experimental

6. Click Whoosh
Team: Reel Grrrls
City/Country: Seattle, WA, USA
Genre: Historical

7. Ghost Bike
Team: Go!
City/Country: Toronto, ON, Canada
Genre: Art

8. I=me2
Team: Year of the Rooster
City/Country: Sherman Oaks, CA, USA
Genre: Experimental

9. Ice Fishing
Team: Rotating Planet
City/Country: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Genre: Sports

10. Jetty
Team: Fly On The Wall
City/Country: Portland, OR, USA
Genre: Social Issue/Political

11. Meet The Freegans
Team: Shields Films
City/Country: Portland, OR, USA
Genre: Social Issue/Political

12. Pennywise: The Changing Face of Change
Team: Lucky Shot
City/Country: Silver Spring, MD, USA
Genre: Social Issue/Political

13. Red Light Blues
Team: Abrahami-Netz Productions
City/Country: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Genre: Social Issue/Political

14. Stick and Pound
Team: It Donned On Me
City/Country: Foster City, CA, USA
Genre: Art

These 14 finalists will screen on the evening of Saturday, April 26 at 9:30pm at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival in Toronto where the Grand Prize Winner will be announced.


It has been a tough and unusual week. A little good news showed up this afternoon. So I say: Toronto Here We Come.

Toronto, Here We Come

The week was seeming rather disastrous, and then I received this:
"Congratulations! You are finalist for the International Documentary Challenge! Your film will be screening as part of the Doc Challenge Showcase and Awards Ceremony at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival in Toronto, Canada on Saturday, April 26 at 9:30 p.m where we will announce the Grand Prize Winner ($1,000) and other awards (Cinematography, Editing, etc.)"
HotDocs is a fantastic film festival, and we had a blast last year. It's incredible to be going again....

You can see more on the International Documentary Challenge site, though they haven't updated as of this writing.

This blog's friend HaikuGirl has more details on the 14 finalists, though unfortunately her film won't be at the screening (I still very much want to see it, though -- it's on a topic I really like). Still, she lives in Toronto and will be attending the fest -- so there will be pictures and liveblogging....

Previously, I posted here and here about the process of making the film.


I've just found out that our short film made it into the The International Documentary Challenge finals -- so we'll be screening at HotDocs. Details later if possible.

Breaking News

This just in: our short film made it into the finals of The International Documentary Challenge, so we'll be screening at HotDocs on April 26th. Details later tonight....

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Street Photography in The Times Online

A nice article from the U.K. news:

Street photographers fear for their art amid climate of suspicion
"To some, the very idea of covertly photographing strangers might seem “odd”, even distasteful. And yet a proportion of those same people will own a print of Robert Doisneau's Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville, or have sent greetings cards showing 1930s Paris, as recorded by Brassai. Street photography has given us a lot. More, perhaps, than we know."

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Lenses on a Budget

I wrote a little article for NYIP about bargain lenses:

Beyond Your Kit Lens:
Cheap -- But Good -- Lenses for your Digital SLR
"Most people who buy a Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera purchase the lens bundled with the camera -- the "kit lens" -- and do just fine. After a little shooting, though, they realize there's a world of possibility out there for their photography if they add a few new lenses. That's what an SLR camera allows you to do -- take that kit lens off and put other lenses on. At this point, however, sticker shock can set in: the best-rated lenses often come with a very big price tag.

So, are there some great bargains out there? Can you start adding to your camera bag without breaking the bank? Could we assemble a full camera bag of high-quality, useful lenses for under $1000? It turns out that we can."

Thursday, March 20, 2008

No, Thank You

They seem to be filming a piece about the "junk shop" on First Avenue near my apartment. Which I'm all for. Good luck. I hope it goes well.

Perhaps they could put some identification on this flyer, though? A contact phone number? A company name? They've left these signs up for days, also, not just during the hours when I've seen the camera there. Are they shooting out the window onto the sidewalk? Is the camera hidden? Someone has scrawled "Is this legal?" on it. It would be nice if there was someone to ask.

Don't do stupid things that make the public suspicious of documentary filmmakers. Bring out your camera, and if you point it at someone and they say "no" then stop taping them. Have some respect. Don't just post flyers that make people think documentarians are out to pull a fast one.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

After the Parade, Before the Arrests

I'm not really much of a bus person. I like the subway. Still, the bus stops right near my midtown job, and the views on the way home are fun.

And now I've discovered that my little pocket camera fits nicely on the window thingy, so I can take photographs during the ride up 3rd Avenue.

Above: St. Patrick's Day.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Well, That Clears it Up

Mikhail Baryshnikov and Merce Cunningham Talk Dance Photography
I never liked dance photography; it’s very flat, and dance photography in the studio looks very contrived. Very few photographers really know how to … it’s just a page in the book. It was not that I hated it, but I didn’t feel it was necessary compared with the real thing. But there were a few photographers — Brodovitch, Himmel, Ilse Bing, Irving Penn — who made me feel it was possible. I wanted the audience to see, to be able to imagine, the movement before and after, not just the frozen moment.
They even mention that the show is at Mark Seliger’s 401 Projects.

Yet Jerry Springer Still Hasn't Called

Today New York Institute of Photography posted a podcast about me.

If You Know, You Go

Baryshnikov combines dance, photography
The former ballet dancer, who defected to Canada in 1974, says he initially was hesitant to combine the two artistic mediums, the New York Daily News reported Sunday. "I'd never really photographed dance," Baryshnikov said, "because I felt it was kind of too obvious and stupid."
The article seems to hint that there's a show of the work, here in a New York gallery. But they would never be so obvious and stupid as to specify where.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

IDC Shoot

Over on my other blog -- New York Portraits -- I have a short account of what it was like to work on this year's International Documentary Challenge.

The amazing thing, of course, is that we had all six members of Profluence Productions again. Anthony Weeks flew in from across the country, and everyone moved their schedules around to make this work. I expect if we do it again next year, it might not be possible to have everyone here. Maybe the team will split in two. Maybe it will split into six. Or maybe we'll feel we've gotten all we can out of the process of making something for the Challenge.

If we do try once more, though, I think I should leave a few notes for next year while they are fresh in my mind:

First, since making a documentary in five days is crazy on the face of it, you've got to maximize editing time. We should choose projects that can be shot completely on Thursday night. Starting the edit Friday would be much better.

Second, a few days before the event we should have some technical practice. Everyone on the team knows how to work with cameras and audio, but we were overconfident. We used a camera that a few of us hadn't used much -- and had problems with a few basics. Once we got everything working, it was fine -- but it would be best to show up with everything dialed in.

Third, we need better lighting gear. We made it work fine -- I think our interview shots look great -- but being able to set up a softbox or shoot-through umbrella and a big white reflector would have been the way to go. We were saved by taking a long time and not settling until the shot looked good, but could have been much faster with the right equipment.

Above: Dana Bartle, somewhere in the NYC subway system.

Shooting IDC

Our International Documentary Challenge experience was, I think, great. Thursday morning I woke up, and signed in at the IDC site to learn: we had to work with the theme of "chance" but could choose our genre between "art" and "experimental." Five of us met for breakfast in the Village, went over our options and decided on the film we would make.

There was nothing that could be shot that day, so Friday morning, our team -- now all six members from last year reunited -- met, got our equipment together, then split into two groups. My group went to Astoria and followed our subject as she took the subway into Manhattan. The other group was waiting for us when we arrived.

We stayed in the city until 3 p.m., then made our way back to the subject's house for an interview and a glance at her collection of ... well, that would give it away so I can't say yet.

Friday night, we split the capture duties: two of us digitized 4 hours of footage each. The next morning I had a few basic ideas together by the time the team arrived, and we edited late into the night. Sunday we spent all day and night again. At one point we followed a blind alley: we just about finished one possible ending, then realized it didn't work. Late at night, seemingly adrift, we tried something new and discovered another way we could go.

I stayed up late working on that, and the next day was spent refining that idea to what became our finished version. Late in the afternoon, we decided it was done, prepare a DVD and a tape, and mailed them off.

Above: Laura Van Schendel with camera.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

IDC Yet More

Haikugirl and Rackle also completed a film for the International Doc Challenge. Tons of respect to them -- that's not easy and it sounds like they were a two-person team.

I'll be curious to see how the numbers work out -- I believe 122 teams entered the competition, and some number can't complete their films in that time. It's a huge challenge, and anything from weather to any bad luck can stop a film in its tracks. I would guess over 100 will qualify, though, so I think the competition will be very tough....


Girl With a Movie Camera has a post about the process of making our little film. I'll have a few notes here (and on my other blog) and maybe a picture or two very soon.


Some of our Upper East Side neighbors have had a tough week. I don't really need to comment, though, if the neighborhood dogs are willing to address the issue. Chance is a strange thing: the wind blows, the paper brushes against the garbage container, a dog comes by, a name happens to be in a certain spot, I happen to walk down one street and not another.

Either that, or the dogs have a plan.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Five Days

Well, we shot, edited and finished our film and mailed it off.

I think it's a very good film; we'll see what the judges think.

Pictures and stories very soon....


We finished our film. I think you'll like it.

Details soon....

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Mark Your Calendars for the A900

A long while back, when Apple was more or less at its low point in sales, I told many people: they're starting to do things right, and they're making the right choices, and they get it. And they did get it, and the products got better and surprised a lot of doubters, and the situation turned around.

Well, in the world of professional cameras, you've got amazingly entrenched Nikon and Canon camps -- and laughter is heard whenever Sony is mentioned.

I like Nikons, I like Canons; I've shot both. But I'm telling you: Sony is starting to get it. The Alpha 100 had issues -- but its strong points were better than the equivalent Nikons or Canons. The Alpha 700 made the case that Sony can match the mid-level capabilities of the old guard, and the latest releases show Sony starting to innovate.

David Pogue gets it:

Revolution in Single Lens Reflex
"Just by looking at it, you’d never guess that Sony’s new Alpha A300 digital camera represents a huge technical breakthrough. To discover what it is, you need a tour of its innards. Keep hands and feet inside the tram at all times."


The L.A. Times takes a long trip inland via the freeway, and finds a stack of photographs out in the desert.

Picture this: Palm Springs Art Museum as photography hub
"Thanks to a gift of 543 photographs from an anonymous donor, the Palm Springs Art Museum is transforming its photography collection and expanding its exhibition program.

The donation surveys camera art from the mid-19th to the late 20th centuries, with pockets of strength in early photography and Pictorialist images by artists such as Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen and Julia Margaret Cameron. It also includes views of Egypt and Palestine taken by Francis Frith in the 1850s, street scenes of early 20th century Paris by Eugène Atget, dramatically modern compositions by Edward Weston, experimental pieces by Lyonel Feininger and poetic landscapes by Harry Callahan."
A note to those considering applying for the residency program out there: Palm Springs is fun, but the summer is really, really, really hot.

Let The Games Begin

Tomorrow, the International Documentary Challenge begins. Last year, we made it to the finals, and won an award (though not the Grand Prize). So we're back, and hoping to do better. At 8 a.m., they'll email us our possible genre choices, and we'll decide on what film to make, and then we'll make it.

By Monday.

I'm ready to go. I'm like a kid in a candy store.

Above: a candy store, earlier tonight.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Sumo's Nice, Too Large for the Bookshelf

I watched the documentary on Helmut Newton tonight.

I'm reminded that my favorite book on Newton is "Us and Them" -- which deals as much with his life with June Newton (Alice Springs) as it does with his photography.

Shrinkage! or Can I Retouch It Until I Need Glasses?

Are there any stories about photography in today's news? You might regret asking.

Only follow the link below if you have a European attitude about seeing a naked man -- not Michael Musto this time -- on a billboard promoting opera.

Actor complains over 'distorted' naked billboard
"An actor who appears naked on a poster for the Royal Opera House is considering legal action because he claims the image has been distorted to shrink a certain part of his anatomy."
Well, there you go. Someone had to approach the Photoshop artist and say
"Could you, umm, de-emphasize, uh.... We want you to, well... this area here."

"What, reduce his Rigoletto?"

"Yes. Is there a filter for that?"

"No, that's going to have to be done by hand."
I'm sure by the time Adobe releases Photoshop CS4, there will be a plug-in specifically for this. You'll be able to adjust the shrinkage using a temperature scale. Why the delay? They can't stop laughing long enough to figure out what to name it.

Wait -- Class is an Issue in New York?

I watched "Tina Barney: Social Studies" on Sundance last night (there's an excerpt here) and was reminded that the work and the artist are two very separate things, despite our natural efforts to put them together.

Here's a film that takes the strategy of looking into Tina Barney's life and work process as if her biography will explain her art, as so many documentaries on photographers do -- yet in the end, if we're willing to read between the lines, it's clear that the artist, the audience, and the art are not in agreement about what's revealed.

Barney claims she's documenting upper class families, her subjects feel she's revealing their charm, magazines think she's creating images to envy, and galleries think she's making work about class. Perhaps art functions like those "selfish gene" theories -- it's not about the host, but about propagating the art into the future.

The score so far: Biography, 0; Wimsatt and Beardsley, 1.

Above: 43rd Street, looking toward the U.N.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Welcome to the Working Week

Sometimes I answer studio lighting questions for photographers, and to help illustrate the idea of lighting patterns I'll often send along a link to a Web page showing examples.

Did you ever notice that the best, most exact examples of lighting technique are, if you really look, the worst possible portraits?

Helpful New York Tip #3

If you wait until March to throw out that Christmas tree, you can avoid the congestion at the curb. Why rush?

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Photography Books Under $10

That article in the Times on Photographers on the other side of the lens reminded me of one of my bookshelf favorites. It's great fun, with accounts of meeting and photographing more than 20 of the biggest names in photography. Includes Garry Winogrand, Lee Friedlander, Robert Frank, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans -- the list goes on.

That's Man Ray on the cover.

Photography on TV

What to watch this week? The New York Times has a good article on the series of photography-connected documentaries Sundance Channel will run starting Monday night.

Photographers, on the Other Side of the Lens
Photographers — how they work, what they shoot, and their sources of inspiration — are the subject of a weeklong documentary series that begins Monday night on the Sundance Channel. The documentaries, made over the last decade by 10 independent filmmakers and assembled for the series, feature a broad range of photographers including William Eggleston, Tina Barney, Helmut Newton, and Robert Mapplethorpe and his mentor Sam Wagstaff, among other lesser-known artists.

Memory Card Prices Decrease Again

Memory cards continue dropping in price. You can now get a SanDisk 4 GB Extreme III CompactFlash Card for under $44, the lowest price I've seen on high quality cards. Nearing $10 a gigabyte....


In one of my classes, there is an item about the "rule of thirds" in composition. That's not in a photography class, so I don't particularly emphasize the details of the "rule" -- I'm just happy enough that students are exposed to the idea.

The part they struggle with? Not the idea of dividing the composition into three parts or putting main subjects at the point where imaginary lines meet (for example, a third from the top and a third from the side). Instead, they struggle with why this is good and what it achieves.

While some can restate what they read in the lesson -- that this might make a more interesting and dynamic picture -- others overstate the case greatly. You get the sense that composing using the rule of thirds will make the world a better, finer place. Perhaps it will.

Previous notes on the "rule of thirds" are here and here.

Above: a very literal version of the rule of thirds.

Get Over It, Or Future Art Historians Will Mock You

Sure, the Dulcimer, Clavichord, Virginal, Spinet and Harpsichord were all very good. They had individual properties that probably quite a few people "mourned" when the Pianoforte became the dominant instrument of the time. Luckily, no one blogged that keening wail, and in the long view we look at the evolution of instruments as one of the things driving the advancement of music: the piano offered more for a musician, so it won out and allowed the development of new art.

Here's my prediction: the photo historians of future centuries will look at the development of the digital camera as the real beginning of photography, with pre-digital photographs in a section of the textbook titled "proto-photography." In advanced classes they'll point out that most areas of photographic practice were developed in this period, but the limitations of film and the economics of the process held the field back in many ways. It will be seen as drawing before the invention of the pencil.

Still, as a sentimental and short-sighted lot, there's no end to the weeping from artists and photographers over the demise of Polaroid. While I tend to see it as a necessary evolutionary step, there are hundreds of bloggers writing about "what we've lost."

Artist Stefanie Schneider And The End Of Polaroid Film
Kimberly Brooks: How are you mourning the news that Polaroid is discontinuing your medium?

Stefanie Schneider: It's an era ending again. No more family pictures developing in front of the children's eyes. A piece of beauty disappearing....a piece of culture. Polaroid material has the most beautiful quality -- the colors on one side, but then the magic moment in witnessing the image to appear. The time stands still and the act of watching the image develop can be shared with the people around you. In the fast world of today it's nice to slow down for a moment. At the same time Polaroid slows time, it also captures a moment which becomes the past so instantly that the decay of time is even more apparent-- it gives the image a certain sentimentality or melancholy. Because of that intensity of the moment it seems to change the interaction of the next moment. The Polaroid moment is one of a kind, an original every time.
Strangely, the article is not written on a typewriter.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

From The "Just Let It Go Already" File

Are there any stories about photography in the news? Yes, there are, and I'm moderately pleased that you asked.

Photography buffs mourning demise of the Polaroid era
"How do you transmit a digital picture?" asked Dolan, whose county includes areas with poor cellphone and radio reception. "We could be 60 miles (96 kilometres) from my office, and we have to take a picture of a car accident or a farm accident or a gunshot wound," he said. "You're a good distance from a computer hookup.''

So Dolan shoots Polaroids, slips them into an envelope, and ships them to the medical examiner along with the corpse. But with Polaroid's announcement this month that it is halting production of instant film, Dolan and thousands of others are forced to hunt for alternatives.
I guess if my typical day included photographing fatal farm incidents, I might tend to look on the pessimistic side of things as well. Still, somehow I think there might be alternatives to the Polaroid-in-an-envelope-taped-to-a-body-bag methodology.