Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Detroit Unbroken Down- Dave Jordano

Photo: Dave Jordano

The first thing one notices upon viewing this book is that it is unquestionably a labor of love. Mr. Jordano loves Detroit, and loves its people- as do they, despite all its faults, disappointments and dangers. One hears and sees little else but the latter anywhere anyone looks. Detroit Unbroken Down reminds us all that there are real people living there, beyond the ruin porn, gangstas and chosen downtown elite. Ordinary people desperately trying to live decent lives in a man made island of neglect and disrepair within the world's most powerful nation.

Photo: Dave Jordano

These portraits of people and community do not focus on the down and out, but neither are they feel good rainbows and unicorns. These Motor City denizens live a reality from which so many of its former residents fled unapologetically; yet, there they remain, refusing to give up and succumb, if only because they don't have the luxury of fleeing. If nothing else, these photographs remind us of that.

Photo: Dave Jordano

Photo: Dave Jordano

Friday, July 24, 2015

Losing One's Voice

Don't know if the movie was all that great, but the content sure was, and her talent was as real and rare as it ever gets. I didn't know Amy Winehouse from shit while alive, by the time I found out who she was, she had already become the mumbling, fumbling, public butt of jokes; and that is, I must confess, how I happened upon her. A joke, a sham, a vapid publicity stunt gone terribly wrong.

Truth is, she was an exceptionally rare talent with a gift that comes along only once in several generations. Most recording artists artists in general must strain to get every last ounce of whatever talent they possess to make themselves shine and be counted. Amy's voice was an absolute force of nature, she had to corral and tame its sheer brilliance. And she could do so with surprising ease and regularity. I have to go back to a young Aretha to think of someone who actually had to restrain their voice of its own natural intensity, a voice that could just wail seemingly of its own accord and volition. She didn't have the Biblical soul of Aretha, but the subtle intonations she delivered were nothing short of magical- so unlike the squeeze every note into every syllable histrionics of the Mariah Carey School of Yarbling.

Unfortunately, she could not curtail and control the very demons that lived within that voice. And she very rapidly regressed into the same sad story of an enormous talent imploding under the pressure of drugs, stardom and wanton self destruction. 

Ironically, and unlike so many others- she wanted neither the fame nor celebrity, and knew it would be the death of her...

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Black And White Of It

After seeing this photo of a Black officer aiding a White supremacist on Yahoo "News," had to see the sorry ass excuses and explanations that racists would be falling over themselves to make in the commentary. And certainly wasn't disappointed, the very first I read accused him of being a... Nationalist Socialist! Get it? No, that's not a Nazi Aryan White Supremacist- he's a Socialist- a Communist, like Lenin, Stalin... Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders!!!


Sunday, July 19, 2015

My First Restoration...

Photo: © S. Banos

30 man hours in, and about 350 more (65MG files) to go... Fifteen years ago I made a decent work print of this and had I two or three more sheets of paper left, might have been able to nail it. Ten years ago, I rented a darkroom to renew the challenge and didn't even make a decent test exposure- two sheets into it, I stood there, had a good laugh, and walked outta the darkroom never to return. I still remember how much lighter my shoulders felt when I walked out!

The weight is most definitely back now with the need for restoration. This negative was definitely not the easiest, nor the hardest- but it did at least confirm that, as hoped, I will be able to see most of these through, even with my limited skills- not that it's easy. I tried both a recommended software, and restoration technique- and both failed spectacularly. Other restoration techniques (specifically, those that erase the damage in bulk rather than individually) are simply ineffective or beyond my reach, at least for now; so my number one restorative tool is, quite simply- patience. I've put about 100 of the files I'd like to see the most in a separate folder; when those get done, I'll breathe a small sigh of relief...

Saturday, July 11, 2015


Photo: © S. Banos

While in NY recently, most of my time was devoted to family matters, but I did manage to steal a little time for myself and make it to Coney, to which I haven't been in years, just in time to catch The Mermaid Parade. Back in the early '80s when it first launched, it was a rag tag, if sincere, affair lasting all of 20 minutes. Now it is a commercially sponsored enterprise which was still going strong some three hours after it commenced and I attempted to leave. And attempted is the operating word since the police had completely cordoned everything off; you literally could not cross the street anywhere to get to the subway- not anywhere! Had to wait something like an hour packed like the proverbial sardine until the cops felt like letting us cross the street.

I didn't mind the occasional rain, and I usually don't mind the effort- if I at least get the one (photo); but I don't think I ever want to go through that again. I don't mind not being privy to whatever's behind some cooler than thou velvet rope, but I can't tolerate having my movement restricted indefinitely on a public street- that's my parade.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

SOB Robs Wounded Vets

This SOB bastard started a totally needless war based on the lies he had manufactured to sell it, had thousands of our boys killed and maimed for life so that his Dick friend could make millions, performed a "comedy skit" about not being able to find any WMD, and is still not satisfied until he can reach into their pockets and make a few bucks off what's left of their bodies.

The man knows NO shame...

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

It's... Official!

For years, knowledgeable, reliable people in the know have been telling me that B&W can be done (and done well) in digital. And not that I didn't believe them- but if this ain't final, definitive, irrefutable proof- I don't know what is. This is one guy who most definitely knows, respects and lives by that look. So what else is there left to say...

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Greatest Photo Book Of All Time

Yeah, I know- an utterly ridiculous statement. So why not just take it as fact and be done with it? I can't prove it, you can't disprove it. Satisfied? Doesn't matter- I'm going with it...

First off, you must simply dispense your personal beliefs and preferences and accept the fact that photography reached it's intellectual and artistic zenith with B&W in the early/mid seventies, and went completely downhill after that color revolution thing of the same decade. With me so far? OK, so I lost maybe... 97.5% of the entire photo audience. Again, doesn't matter.

The book itself is relatively thin, but on the large side- I could tell it wasn't gonna be cheap, and when I opened it and saw the reproductions, I immediately thought three figures. And when I saw the box that held it... Uh-oh. Yeah, it costs $250.

Photo: John Divola

But it's a goddamn gorgeous $250! The lusciously reproduced B&W photos contained in John Divola's San Fernando Valley are deceptively quiet, contemplative- the subtle quirks and nuanced details all hint at the resident's inner lives (when they're not openly broadcasting them with direct views into the camera's lens). The newly settled residents of Bill Owens' Suburbia were gradually affixing themselves into their emerging community; these guys are already settled, they're comfortable in their own skin. After introducing its residents, Mr. Divola photos then go on to further explore the neighborhood's flora and architecture; and it's all good- exactly what you'd expect from the world's greatest photo book (of all time).


PS-  Did I get it? Sadly, no. A little too rich for this boy's blood, but I did not return completely empty handed- I was quite happy to get Robert Voit's amazingly beautiful New Trees- a more than worthy typology of uniquely disguised cell phone towers. Ya see, this was supposed to be my now annual report from NYC, but having to address the growing needs of elderly parents, there was not much time to view (or attempt the making of) much photography while there. New York goes on as always, the poor struggle to house and feed themselves, while the rich revel in their own.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Why (oh why) Isn't The Media...

Calling Dylann Roof a terrorist??? Could it be because he's Whi... aw shucks, u know where I'm going with this...

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Photography Is The New Graffiti (pass it on)...

Don't remember where I saw it, but damn... if that don't encapsulate a few dozen lectures and symposiums on the state of photography today- I don't know what does...

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

SB on B...

I "discovered" Blake Andrews a few years back. Two things you realize right off: the guy's good (that's rare enough), and... he's also funny. Lord knows most comedians are painful to watch or listen to- the great ones are not only rare, but extremely observant and often insightful. And successfully translating some modicum of humor into photography on a consistent basis (which B does) is an extremely rare achievement! But enough about him...

Actually, the man has been kind enough to interview your humble servant on his own home turf @ B...

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

RIP- Kalief Browder

Kalief Browder, 1993-2015.    PHOTO: ZACH GROSS

An innocent kid left to rot in jail for three years with no evidence against him other than that he was Black. Beaten, abused, imprisoned for a goddamn backpack he didn't even take. A budding life needlessly stolen and lost without apology issued or responsibility taken. All committed under the perversion we now call justice.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

"We Need To See Them...

Army Spc. Jerral Hancock sits for a portrait with his son Julius. It is believed that Hancock was trapped under the wreckage of his Army tank in Iraq for half an hour before he was rescued.
Courtesy of David Jay/Unknown Soldier

And for what? We're all made to feel guilty for not "supporting our boys" once the shit hits the fan- but we're never, ever asked to question why we put them in harm's way to begin with.

There are now countless people in and around Iraq who hate us; perhaps because they had nothing to do with 9/11, and yet had to suffer the revenge and full onslaught of the world's foremost military might. An yet the thousands we killed and maimed there for no good (or sane) reason will never get even this most perfunctory of acknowledgements.

Addendum:  David Guttenfelder also has an amazing essay on the plight of vets w/PTSD who are taking their own lives at home- an alarming 22 suicides each and every day! (via: PetaPixel)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Been A Swell Ride- FAREWELL, AND PEACE...

I was looking at my website recently, and despite my plethora of art world rejections (as regular readers will attest), couldn't help feel some small sense of accomplishment. It was short lived. This weekend I discovered that much if not all of my 'photographic legacy' had been damaged to some extent by some insidious mold, fungus, whatever. Losing one's original images is every photographer's worst possible nightmare- losing all one's equipment is a cakewalk in comparison. You can never get back yesterday, the year before, let alone any decade previous.

Photography has been my one personal joy (and torment), and my photographs, more than anything, are my... friends. They accompany me throughout life, some go back aways and we know each other well, others, newly formed acquaintances, and we're just starting to have fun. But young or old, new or familiar, we were all family- and I wanted to protect them.

And protect them I did in a small, fireproof safe- but it was my very precautions that would prove my undoing. I 'upgraded' to a modestly priced safe that was not only fireproof, but also supposedly waterproof, complete with rubber linings. It helped put my mind even further at ease- not only would my precious negs not melt into an unrecognizable blob, they also wouldn't suffer water damage form the fireman's hose. I'll never know if those seals would have ever done their job of keeping water out, unfortunately, they were more than capable of keeping moisture in, therefore providing an excellent environment for negative devouring fungus/mold. How's that for some wicked Greek tragedy?

So now I get to wake up every morning for the rest of my life, and the first thing, the very first fuckin' thing to come to mind is- how does losing some of the most important moments in your life for the last forty years feel, Stan? Hhhhmmmm???

People tell me tomorrow is another day, there'll be other pictures to take. They mean well, and yes, there (hopefully) will. But how does one relive and redo the fleeting moments of forty years of youth? When you're about to break that most disgusting of numbers... 30 may be the new 20, 40 may be the new 30, 50 may be the new 40, but 60 is still fucking 60, and it sucks any way you look at it. And yes, I fully realize there are people throughout the world with much greater and much more pressing, real life problems- like... where are they going to eat or sleep at day's end? Granted.

I always strive to turn things around in some positive manner when hit by one of life's seemingly endless supply of pernicious, personal injustices. One of the reasons I feared this one so, is because I full well knew there would be no recourse, no positive spin, no happy face to put on it. Still, deal with it I somehow must- if only for my own sanity.

I took the following day off work (I could barely function), sat down and started cleaning said negatives with Edwal's film cleaner (Isopropyl alcohol) and managed to get through 350 strips of negatives (from 9AM to 1AM)- and that is just the start. I hope to salvage around 60% (maybe more) of my work- the alcohol actually cleans up some of the fungus on the less affected negatives and should cease any further damage; those more heavily damaged can only await some miracle software of the future. After cleaning, my first move, my only move, is to make high resolution files of what remains and go about restoring them as best possible with my admittedly limited skills. Hopefully, I'll be able to salvage enough to ultimately self publish what remains. Point is, that's one helluva load of work that starts now, and ends...


Which means my friend, that Reciprocity Failure has finally come to the end of its run. Perhaps, I'll post something in a fit of rage, or perhaps in a year or two to update my progress; but for all practical purposes- it really has been fun. Thank you, one and all (truly) for dropping by. Keep caring, keep shooting- and best to all...

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Ideal Indian

I have written about the Indian for scientific magazines all my life and I have never seen one, I would like to learn about their life and logic.    -"Indian scholar" in 1905 conversation with Edward Curtis

Sacajawea- unknown sculptor. Wonder what Edward Curtis would've thought- or any American Indian for that matter. Photo: © S. Banos

"The advent of the White man was a pleasant episode in the lives of these savage people," one of the first chroniclers of Seattle said. "Their arms opened to receive them as superior beings, and the lands they possessed were freely offered for their acceptance."