Saturday, April 26, 2008

Live From Hot Docs 2008

Over on my other blog -- Actualities -- I'm blogging my trip to Hot Docs Canadian International Film Festival and the International Documentary Challenge screening.

2 A.M. or So

After another screening (I'll write about that one soon) we went to a fabulous dinner with Mary Margaret (a.k.a. Haikugirl) and then went on to a get together with some of the other International Documentary Challenge finalists. (Great group of folks -- and it really seems like this will be an excellent screening, so I'm looking forward to it. In a Zen-like way.)

Later, we continued on with our old New School pal Erin (a.k.a. Rackle), now living in Toronto.

More Screenings

On Friday, I saw "Mr. Edison's Ear" and "The Man Who Crossed the Sahara."

Mr. Edison's Ear was fascinating, like a talented teenager: it showed promise in many directions, but could not decide what it wanted to do. Starting with the notion that Edison's loss of hearing at the age of 12 profoundly changed the development of audio recording, the film makes the strange choice to end with a long recording of Rachmaninoff played over footage of the electrocution of an elephant. To me, a documentary that makes a claim to have historical insight needs more mastery of its subject.

I found The Man Who Crossed the Sahara remarkable, and recommend it highly, but I was left with many questions that detract from the main themes of the movie. I love films that leave room for interpretation, but the beginning and ending of the movie -- seemingly tacked on around a great central story -- left me confused.

Peameal Optional

On Friday morning, we followed tradition and went to the Golden Griddle for breakfast. Same section of the restaurant, same waitress as last year.

Haikugirl met us to give us some local tips and to set up a great dinner in town later that evening.

The Next Day

Friday morning I discovered the view from my hotel window. I wondered if this would channel the sound from the courtyard into my room.

Disco Documentarians, 2008 Edition

After the screenings we went to the Industry Party, grabbed a free Steam Whistle, and met a few people, including a few other International Documentary Challenge finalists.

Thursday Screenings

The first screening we attended this year included the short "$4 Haircut" -- which is exactly what it sounds like -- and the feature "S&M: Short and Male."

$4 Haircut, set to a soundtrack of tuba music, is a fun profile of a man who frequents a bargain barbershop. It's funny, but it's only the third-best barbershop documentary I've seen this year. It didn't entirely live up to the raging ovation heard from the director's friends , but it's an unpretentious, fun film and I did laugh out loud more than once.

S&M: Short and Male is a well-put-together film that's too all-over-the-place to succeed completely.

I love the premise -- that males below average height are discriminated against both overtly and unconsciously -- and enjoyed the process of meeting an initial batch of characters with exactly that problem. From there, though, the film attempts to look at world-wide issues, including a teen who struggles through painful surgery to gain height, and the legal fight over job height requirements in China. While each part is fascinating, it feels less like we've expanded the story than that we've tried to cover every possible aspect of the issue. By the time we return to resolve the story of our initial group of height-challenged guys, the movie feels 15 minutes too long.

And I have one other gripe: the main story that gets resolved is only a story because the director has withheld information from us. While that's interesting, it doesn't feel as if we've followed along with someone to the end of the story, and that we've just seen an essay rather than a journey.

On College

Later, we headed to the Royal for our first screening. Anthony arrived in town and met us in line. I love this section of the city -- restaurants and bars line the street block after block, and most of them look very good.


The Festival's gift bags are a better design this year. No t-shirts left except in Extra Small.

The Other Yorkville

I had forgotten: Toronto also has a Yorkville.

Sunny Toronto

Passion turned out to be a good choice -- good food, a pleasant outdoor courtyard, and drinks to match everyone's wardrobe.

On Yonge

Once we got into town, we decided to follow normal Profluence protocol and stopped for drinks. We started at a restaurant called Passion. Here Laura is seen wondering if the drinks go with her outfit.

Hot Docs

On Thursday, Dana, Laura and I took a cab to the airport and then flew to Toronto. I'm normally stressed when I travel, but I've decided to take a Zen approach to the trip and the International Doc Challenge and the whole festival. Win, lose, whatever. At least I'll get to see the city again.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Yorkville Personal Ad #1

Me: Looking good in red, I cruise the Manhattan streets. You: handy with a water bottle, and unaware that it's not juggling without at least two objects. It's spring, and love is in the air. Perhaps we'll meet by chance?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Shooting materials for a podcast-style video this week. I think sometimes it's easy to consider some types of work "serious" and some "for pay" -- but I find I learn from every project I do. Tomorrow, weather permitting, there will be some shooting out in the sun on a nice spring day. Should be fun.

Helpful New York Tip #4

Defacing public property can be time-consuming and stressful. You can cut down on the time needed on-site if you prepare your messages on some sort of sticker, then slyly attach these to advertisements, walls or other high-traffic areas. It is often considered more ironic if you use a sticker intended for official use, although "Hello My Name Is" stickers will work as well.

My favorite thing about making a photograph in the subway is that when I switch my pocket camera to "macro" mode and get really close to some detail to take a photo, everyone looks away and pretends disinterest. After I finish the shot and walk off, they nonchalantly walk over to the spot to see what was so interesting.

Found the above sticker on the same day Richard Quest was arrested.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Pope Comes To Yorkville

The Pope stopped by my neighborhood today. I saw him through a tinted window in the back of his limo.

I guess I was hoping he'd cruise up 1st Avenue in the Popemobile.


On the way home at the end of a tough week, I found the streets around my apartment closed. The Pope has come to Yorkville, I was told, and we can't allow you to go home.

I asked officer Goldberg how long it would be. He said he didn't know.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Photography in the News

Any Photoshop-related items in today's U.K. news? Yes, and as always it is the photo retouchers who are to blame... or credit.

Now fashion mags make models 'fatter'
Another agency, the iWanex Studio, boasts a portfolio of "before and after" images of celebrities that it has retouched for magazines. In one of the "after" photographs, the thighs of Cameron Diaz, the actress, have been visibly widened, her arms filled out and her stomach made smoother and rounder, with her prominent hip bones from the "before" photograph erased.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Next Twist

I had forgotten that last year's trip to Hot Docs, as great as it was, included the kind of tension that happens when awards are on the line. While I realize awards for art are, in a way, really silly, it was still a very interesting experience to stand in front of the full-house audience when team names were called, and to find out what the judges thought of our film.

Well, there will be added tension this year. This email came in yesterday, from the International Doc Challenge organizer:
Hello Doc Challenge Filmmakers,

The American Documentary | P.O.V Award for the International Documentary Challenge has been determined and is going to one of the 14 finalists. We will announce this winner with all of the other winners at Hot Docs on April 26!


Ah, Intrigue

A mysterious man. A younger woman in a trench coat. A look, a touch, and later a kiss. Some flowers in the corner.

And some photographs. The world of gallerists and collectors is filled with adventure.

At AIPAD, An Old Acquaintance

Because Mrs. New York Portraits is working at the event, I attended the AIPAD (Association of International Photography Art Dealers) Photography Show on Friday night. Also, because they have many, many photographs.

In one of the booths, I saw a face I hadn't seen in person in ten years: Lucien Clergue. He was signing a print he had just sold, and looking great. Ten years later, and he looks younger.

That could be because he photographs nude people for a living, of course. Here's what he was doing the last time I saw him -- link is Not Safe For Work viewing:

Lucien Clergue's Nude Workshop

He remembered it, and we discussed that it was the first -- and only -- time he has shot digitally. He was very kind, and came over to meet Mrs. New York Portraits. She kept her clothing on for the duration of the conversation.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Photography in the News

Are there any stories about photography in the news? Yep.

Is that really a naked woman in Dick Cheney's sunglasses?
The photo is a tight shot of Cheney's face sporting dark sunglasses and his trademark grin. What's stirring all the buzz is the reflection in the vice president's dark glasses. Some thought that the reflection looked like a naked woman and, this being Cheney and this being the Internet Age, they immediately shared that thought with the world.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

AIPAD Starts Tonight

The AIPAD (Association of International Photography Art Dealers) Photography Show starts tonight here in Manhattan with a Gala fundraiser, then continues through Sunday, April 13, 2008, at the Park Avenue Armory at 67th Street in New York City. If you were going tonight, you'd already be there, but for the rest of the week show hours will be:

Thursday, April 10 -- 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Friday, April 11 -- 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, April 12 -- 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, April 13 -- 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Admission is $25 daily or $35 for the run-of-show, and includes a show catalogue. No advance purchase required, tickets available at the door.

Know Your Chinese 'Shoppers

Here's the scene: you're invited to a cocktail party, and as always all anyone wants to talk about is naughty Chinese photographers who win awards and are then stripped of those awards for having Photoshopped their pictures. You have a vague memory of this, you read something about it somewhere, but there are so many that you can't quite remember....

To help you avoid this disastrous social setback, I've prepared a short guide:
Photographer: Zhang Liang
Social Issue: bird flu
Animal Photoshopped: pigeons
Won: gold award, China International Press Photo Contest, 2005
Story: Watch the birdy
Statement: "I would like to apologise to the public."

Photographer: Liu Weiqiang
Social Issue: antelope protection
Animal Photoshopped: antelopes
Won: "10 most impressive news photos of 2006"
Story: Editor quits, paper apologizes
Statement: "I spent two weeks there waiting for the antelopes and train to appear together, but they never did."

Photographer: Zhou Zhenglong
Social Issue: existence of wild South China tigers
Animal Photoshopped: tiger (allegedly)
Won: 20,000 yuan (US$2,666)
Story: Photo of 'extinct' tiger sparks controversy
Statement: "Zhou Zhenglong risked his life in taking these photos, so they are very precious."

Photographer: Ye Weitang
Social Issue: fire is bad
Animal Photoshopped: pig
Won: golden award, China International Photographic Arts Exposition, 2007
Story: Award Winner Was Faked
Statement: "...with so many other altered photographs winning awards, it would be a disaster to rescind all those awards."

Monday, April 07, 2008

Monday at Sotheby's

On Monday night, I joined Mrs. New York Portraits at Sotheby's for the photography auction.

Edward Weston's Nude Sells For $1.6 Million at Sotheby's Setting a New Record For The Artist
This evening at Sotheby’s, before a packed salesroom, the sale of The Quillan Collection of Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Photographs, a connoisseur’s collection of 68 rare and unique images ranging in date from 1847 to 1985, sold for $8,901,350 far exceeding the high estimate (est. $4.6/7 million) and setting records for nineteen artists.

Ninety-two percent of the lots sold tonight achieved prices at or above their pre-sale estimates.

Highlighting the sale was Edward Weston’s Nude, from 1925, which was the object of a heated battle between two bidders, finally selling, to applause, to Peter MacGill of the Pace-MacGill Gallery for $1,609,000, far above its high estimate and setting a new record for the artist at auction

Fake Pigeon Photograph of the Day

Are there any stories about photography in the news? Yes, and they all use the word "sacked" in them.

Photographer sacked over fake picture
Zhang Liang from the Harbin Daily submitted the picture "Over 800 pigeons at a square take the bird flu vaccine" to the China International Press Photo Contest in 2005 and came away with a gold award. Some of Zhang's peers launched an investigation, and two flying pigeons in the picture were said to have been fabricated. The organizer of the contest announced yesterday that the picture is a fake.
Watch the birdy: Cameraman sacked for fake pigeon
Zhang Liang, a former photographer for the Harbin Daily newspaper, admitted that he added a pigeon to a photo, using Photoshop software, which showed pigeons receiving bird flu vaccine shots from medical workers. The photo won the top prize in the first China International Press Photo Contest, held by the Photojournalist Society of China in 2005.

Friday, April 04, 2008


Doug Whyte, the International Documentary Challenge Producer, just sent a note about an additional award for IDC films:
The International Documentary Challenge is partnering with P.O.V., PBS' premiere showcase for independent, non-fiction film. P.O.V. will be awarding the "P.O.V. Prize" to a Doc Challenge film. This film will be prominently showcased on their website and receive a $1,000 award.

Currently P.O.V is looking at the top 25 rated films from the 1st round of judging to determine the winner. The winning film will screen at Hot Docs, where the prize will be awarded. If the P.O.V. Prize goes to a non-finalist, we will announce it next Monday so the filmmakers can attend the festival if they want to. If it goes to a finalist, we will just announce the winner at Hot Docs.
Well, since judges do vary greatly and P.O.V. will have their own rubric, it very well may go outside the 14 finalists. If it goes to a finalist, however, it will be a very nice moment at the screening....

P.O.V. Prize for a Doc Challenge Film

According to Doug Whyte, the Doc Challenge Producer:
The International Documentary Challenge is partnering with P.O.V., PBS' premiere showcase for independent, non-fiction film. P.O.V. will be awarding the "P.O.V. Prize" to a Doc Challenge film. This film will be prominently showcased on their website and receive a $1,000 award.

Currently P.O.V is looking at the top 25 rated films from the 1st round of judging to determine the winner. The winning film will screen at Hot Docs, where the prize will be awarded. If the P.O.V. Prize goes to a non-finalist, we will announce it next Monday so the filmmakers can attend the festival if they want to. If it goes to a finalist, we will just announce the winner at Hot Docs.
Well, that's very cool.