Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Confession of a Stevedore VII (unedited text)

i first got the idea to shoot evangelina (roberta pedon) after hearing mazursky's testimony.  i remember that scene from gimme shelter and at the time it seemed gratuitious, an attempt to remind a woodstock audience that this was still the 60s.  this was anything but the 60s.  the shot is a long telephoto shot and you can't really see her face.  it wasn't until i entered her name into google images and found page after page of jugs layouts, fling, big 'ins, whoopers magazine, gem, nymphet, gent, peaches and the aptly named "girls with enormous breasts.";  i knew this was my long lost black dahlia,   this from wikipedia:

Evangelina Cisneros (born 2 May 1954 – 30 July 1982[citation needed]) was the stage name of a big-bust Latvian Jewish American glamour model who appeared in men's magazines in the 1970s.

(Born in Ohio to Latvian-Jewish parents, Cisneros relocated first to San Francisco and then to Venice, California to start a modeling career.[1] By the winter of 1972-73 she was 18 and living with a college student in San Francisco. ... She separated from her lover and in March, 1973, moved to Venice, California, not far from Hollywood. Bob Ellison and John Kirk, both well-known glamour photographers in Los Angeles, have been credited with discovering her.[citation needed] She was known by many pseudonyms (Evangelina Cisneros, Melody O'Hare, Roberta Baird and Roberta Weaver.) "Evangelina Cisneros" was the name she had fully adopted by 1973. The "Melody O'Hare" moniker supposedly came from the name of one of her best friends in junior high. Cisneros' nickname was "Mooschi", an Americanized spelling of the German slang term for the pudenda - "Muschi".[2] She modelled/acted under the names Robin, Robbie, Roberta, Sam, Melody O'Hare, and Roberta Weaver.[citation needed]
Because she was young, pretty, with a spectacular large-breasted figure, Cisneros' photographs frequently appeared in men's magazines catering to breast fetishists.[citation needed] The earliest verifiable publication of her photos was in the February 1974 edition of "The Swinger", a men's magazine.[citation needed] In Nymphet, February 1975, she appeared under another name and with text referring to her Jewish background. Cisneros dressed (and then undressed) as a hippie in most of her photo shoots.[citation needed]
Cisneros appeared in the sexploitation film Carnal Madness aka Delinquent Schoolgirls.[3] Her casting was the result of her contacts at American Art Enterprises (AAE), a Los Angeles company that specialized in pornographic shoots and loops.[citation needed] AAE's modeling roster provided the producer of Delinquent Schoolgirls with busty female talent like Cisneros and Nika Movenka for the film.[citation needed] After appearing in Delinquent Schoolgirls, Cisneros auditioned for the lead female role in the Jan-Michael Vincent film Buster and Billie.[citation needed]
Little is known for certain about her troubled personal life, though Charles Smith wrote a biography based on a mixture of fact and hearsay.[4] What is certain is that she had serious drug addiction problems, which led to her being hospitalized at least once, and to losing her modeling contract with American Art Enterprises. She turned to prostitution during her contract, possibly to feed her drug habit, and was arrested for this at least once, in San Francisco, in 1975.
[edit] Legacy
In Dian Hanson's book, The History of Men's Magazines Vol. 5, Evagelina Cisneros is listed as one of the top five American covergirls from 1968-1980.
Delinquent Schoolgirls was released on DVD in February 2008.
[edit] Selected magazine appearances
  • Fling (May 1973)
  • Big 'ins (August 1973)
  • Whoppers Magazine (October 1973)
  • Girls With Enormous Breasts (October 1973)
  • Jugs, Hiney Holes, and More! (February 1974)
  • Gem (May 1974)
  • Nymphet (February, 1975)
  • Gent (Vol.16, No.3 June 1975)
  • Peaches (No.8, 1975, UK)
latvia!  what the fuck.  i always wondered what their claim to fame was.  so much for the myth of the sweedish bombshell; evangelina cisneros makes uschi digard look like stand-in for kristen scott thomas in the english patient.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Confessions of a Stevedore (insert)

there are several defining moments in my life, instances where a set of random circumstances conspire together to from an indellible impression, one that wreaks its havoc upon every decision i've ever made, upon each thought that shoots across my synapses. they form together an albatross,  a giant monkey on my back, dumb and dumber taunting me, goading fixit me into submission, doubt and recalcitrance fixit.  they are the following:

the cover of an abridged edition of ambrose bierce's devil's dictionary.  i can't think for the life of me why this particular edition was bequethed upon us as children.  i was young enough to still believe in the devil and this, combined with weekly sojourns to sunday school, was an exercise in contradiction i could never quite fathom.  i blame the artwork.  there is an evilness inherant in early illustrations, eugene delacroix, aubrey beadsley, edward gorey—there is something incarnate about their work, a world weariness, an indefinable horror that seeks to damage rather than entertain...not so with the current crop of tim burtons with their childlike insouciance and uncanny ability to tap into the popular malaise.

the contents of the book were a complete mystery to me at the time.  i don't think i ever breached the cover for fear of retribution but if i had, the snarkyness, the topical 19th century witticisms would have been beyond me,  but oddly, i've garnered a general distaste for cynicism and satire, at least for the soul sake of being cynical and satirical.  it smacks of poor sportmanship and bellyaching fixit.

okay.  number two:  the sneetches by dr. seus.  talk about indocrination fixit.  i never bought the ending.  the notion that success in life is predicated soley upon self-aggrandizement seemed even then, at the tender age of five, a diabolical plot, "the most monstrously concieved and dangerous communist plot we've ever had to face!"

number three:  walter the lazy mouse.  okay, i get that it was a kick in the pants to little kids who spend too much time in the tub...but there was something prophetic about it, something fatalistic about it that seemed wholly fixit addressed to me.  this fucking mouse is always late.  he wakes up late in the morning only to join his fellow siblings at the breakfast table just as they are finishing...he misses the bus to school and when he finally does arrive he finds his siblings and classmates have decamped homeward.  and so on and so forth ad infinitum...


work in ethan frome, variation on a theme of ethan frome etc, fantasy on a thene

lost in a roman wilderness of pain.  i've always liked that line, not for the juvenile rhyme scheme that follows, but the truth of it.  morrison was most likely in some survey class, post european debt relief through the fine prism of etruscan antiquities, sitting next to some chick, second cousin to sharon tate, reminicing about some sudanese exchange student that weaned her forever off suburban white boys.  it's sad how passion and truth is wasted on young poets.  they try in earnest in later years to recapture the glory but they wind up writing about the new england autoban fixit society..."the intricate patters of the spider's web
tug on heart strings, fill emotional pot holes, cock and seal old wounds, the sounds of (migrating birds, their soujourn calls the empty promises of an indian summer—
news years resolutions on bar napkins' the drunken philisophical ramblings spilled to a bartender named joe (for those taking notes: there is always a bartender named joe, soaking up drunken philisophical ramblings and re-stocking the peanuts. fixit)
notice to matilda, the offspring of (new england fouding family, etc) the paintings of andrew wyeth (first name?) contain the stuff of odysseus, the longigns of christina, her fallen gate (collapsed gate etc) and forlorn expression; the labors of athena and elektra's (passion, angst, madness etc)

i could tell old poets a thing or two—the lines (quatrains, verses-poetical term) of robert frost have long since been (outlawed) and emily dickenson, so gauche, so obvious...though whitman still rears his ugly head in immaculate proclamations and ringing affirmations (self-aggrandizements)

notes:  with the loss of primagenture fixit comes the loss our great musical heritage.  teenagers used to crowd the aisles of the (benny goodman hall in new york) and later, after they wised up, the taverns and speak-easys on 52nd street...i know, i've seen the pictures!  Clint Eastwood—forget about it.  where do ya think he learned to play the piano..?  hanging backstage at a sex pistols gig?  i don't think so.  finally these assholes figured out they could just pick up a guitar and make music themselves.  with the advent of radio, now cow-towing to a newly landed gentry, the boomers, marketers had a new audience, a younger, greener audience who didn't need the chops of an arturo toscannini to get off and, due to decades of pop music, couldn't comprehend the modulations of bach's first prelude if their lives depended on it.  so, three chord ditties, 1 4 5 changes so as not to tax the ears of our precious little angels, the wisdom and keep political insights of a bob dylan.  all these miraculous conceptions and mingus winds up wandering central park with a fixit nikon 35mm camera.

notes:  not quite bostonian, quarter tainted with mariland stock (marylander) from eduction of henry adams

i've read 20 pages of education of henry adams today and i feel like shit for not having read 40.  i've read the book before, when i was in my twenties, but that didn't count.  i've re-read it since and i've referenced it a few times in the past few years but i'm a firm believer in reading classics more than once, continually in fact.  who was that british critic that re-read dickens every year, not just great expectations, but all of dickens?  i've got to get to root of the brahmin question.  were they just sneetches or did they merit their stars? "and this is good old boston, the home of the bean and the cod, where the lowells talk only to cabots and the cabots talk only to god."  shippers, loomers and philanthropists—those two crew jackasses in the social network who by the way, were, at least in the beginning, true to their brahmin roots.  harvard men don't sue one another.  that's all brahmin shite.  though, of course, zuckerberg was a jew.

an interesting section in the book, well, the whole book is interesting, but this one particular section about adams and his introduction to beethoven and to classical music in general — i think it would be interesting to know exactly when and how much exposure so-called cultured americans received  say, between the years 1776 and 1881, the year the boston symphony orchestra was founded, one of the first and principle orchestras in this country.  we've all but abandoned classical music these days, along with the rest of the world, but america is a little different, in the sense that we have always had a vibrant folk music tradition, a popular music tradition made up of a myriad of different cultures that immigrated to this country (i'm completely discounting any influence that native americans may or may not have had—which, by the way, i believe is zilch.  any influence at all is retro and of a decidedly scholarly nature—in the sense that musical scholars have made an effort to quantify and record as much music as possible.  the majority of so-called native american music that springs readily to the minds of most americans is a product of the motion picture industry manufactured by the likes of aaron copeland and alex north)  so-called classical music is a western phenomenon and arguably a manufactured phenomenon at that if you take into account that our musical scale is a tempered scale, a non-natural scale that has been adopted due to its economy and practicality.  many eastern countries use the natural scales in their own so-called classical or indigenous music.  america's own native music utilizes many intervals that are quite similiar to the natural scale: melodic minor scales, pentatonic scales etc—these scales have a greater sense of resolution in both rhythm and note.  the blues utilizes the aptly named "blue note," a interval between the fixit and fixit notes that comes very close to emulating the natural scales.  the average american in the early to mid 19th century would find classical music rather boring, in the sense that his ears would be seeking a more rigid and fixed sense of pitch and resolution.  suffice to say that most popular music heard in america at that time would condition the listerner to a more restricted set of chords, in both rhythm and notes.  most classical music utilizes an almost infinite number of chords and the notion of resolution, especially to the ears of an early american, would be almost non-existant.  it's not surprising that henry adams had no taste for beethoven when he was first expsosed.  of course he later became a huge fan of beethoven's music and the music of many other classical musicians—notably wagner, who could rightly be called the non-resolution king (though not by your humble narrator) would not ingratiate himself to henry adams until the very twilight of his life—godderdamerung fixit  being one of the very last of his musical conquests...

my point is that you can indeed lead a horse to water and make him drink—the horse in this case being henry adams, the oh so uncouth american steadfast in his morals and character yet flexible in his almost insatiable drive to better himself.  drive here is the key.  one must have a sense of the better.  one must entertain the notion that something better exists and that to strive towards this betterment is a worthy act.  i think that is what we've lost in this country.  i can't quite put my finger on it but i think it stems from the onslaught of popular radio, which in turn lead to the death of amateur music making (at least of a classical nature) and the onslaught of the internet.  the invention of the radio and the internet—two of the biggest levelers this country has ever faced. (i'll address the invention of the combustion engine and the interstate highway system for another chapter, perhaps another book..!)


lartique (add william klein, avedon, more eugene smith
re-reading vonnegut qgain, reading joyce, balzaq etc
dead english girls.  add winehouse
mazursky and his groucho quotes, obessession with film noir, kubricks killing more.
second raters club, also rans

lartique, airborne feats of magic, makes small work of conceptualists, rips asunder...etc.  despite his flirtation with stereoscopy (obsession with sports whpich borders on illustrative, though thety are amoung his best ohotos.  idea that hsi photos were not discovered until decades later, had littoe or no influnce, as did not many other so-called gentleman again to the notion of the hobbies and pastimes of the rich, how making a living at craft is the job of the middle classes, the artisan class.  this plays to the idea of whether the high arts are truly worth since they are aboive and beyind what any reasonoable oerson would attempt.  bring up mozart ane beethoven and the resistance they faced, kn both musical acceptance  and social caste.

notes:  at one point, make reference to ron gallela and his obsession with jackie, the fact that jackie has done nothing to warrant it, the non-accomplishments of her children, thier resemblance to old europe aristocarcy and the notion of the non-accomplishment,

also bring up the poor little rich girl syndrome etc.

man rays toilet inspores little confidense though it shows up on punk albums, covers etc.

whitmans democracy

there is nothing quite so pathectic in this world to see as an old man wax poetic about a 50 years dead fixit english alto.  mazursky weeps in fits etc...  like grandpa out of the waltons, like...  walter brennan in tammy, like.... (quote line from apocalypse now...i wepts, like some grandmother iwanted to tear my teeth out...i didnt know what i wanted to do.)

in my dotage, ive become a joycean scholar, a walking encyclopedia etc...

barthes:  camera lucida...

a photograph is never anything but an antiphon of look, a child gesturing "that, there it is, lo!

pg.  45
the punctum has, more or less potentially, the power of expansion.  this oower is often metonymic.
there is another less (proustian) expansion of the punctum...

robert wilson holds barthe, though he cannot say why (with philip galss)

(great word—equerry...horseman/servant

queen victoria on the horse...  the horse rearing?  no, the ingongruity of the scene.  victoria fat, uhealthy, the stagedness of the photograph.  is she led around like some child on a pony, with a drewl cup and (tops), has she ever been on a horse before, why does she need it stayed. the picture reeks of revolution, the reason the romanovs were distinguished.  i see (romanovs on lonely railroad cars on vacated tracks...   what does this picture signify, a link to the past, english roots, their connectiin with nature, why do we need to see queen vic on a  horse and what dors it signify.

***** a labyrinthine man never seeks the truth, but only his ariadne (from nietzche)

(for mazursky:  collected books on kilroy photos)

for lartigue:        From this, there was a photo spread in Life magazine in 1963, coincidentally in the issue which commemorated the death of John Kennedy, ensuring the widest possible audience for his pictures.


montage on photograohitechniques....  "collodion-on-glass"  etc

lewis carrol and the trials and tribulTions of alice liddell
julia margaret cameron's portrait of sir john herschel

key!  the patient at the surrey county lunatic asylum (compare and contrast our fascinatiin with the insane, their detached"ness", separateability

the plight of mathew brady (civil war photographer and portraitist)  like electricity and the many fraudulent uses , attemots to make money, work in gilded age etc.

was thinking about the lack of any decipherable hegemony in our society.  the inability to look at any one thing and say "this is good...this is great" and generate at least some semblance of recognition from your mates.  i don't mean to suggest that this is a new phenomenon, unique to my generation.  there are legions of dead critics, dead purveyors of culture: ezra pound, edmund wilson, malcom crowley

we followed mazursky from the start.  it was his idea, of course, the panopticon…f'ing brilliant!  too brilliant in fact.  it died beneath the wait of its own genius.  it started as one of a series of schubertiads at dupairs at farmer's market in la, right off the top of his head, as if he was reading the special off the chalk board.  

"take some b-celebrity, some poor slob from some 70s sitcom, willie aames from eight is enough…christ, what an asshole!  you take this guy and you follow him, day and night.  he goes to the john and you light up that restroom like it's saigon, new years eve, 1968.  you follow him everywhere, mcdonalds, starbucks, the dmv for christs sake…everywhere!  but it's gotta be some asshole hasbeen, some jackass that would give his left kidney to be back in the limelight and has exhausted everything from daytime variety shows and reality tv to hocking the clapper on late night cable…i mean you find that biggest jerk on the planet…christopher knight, danny bonaducci, scott baio…now there's a moron!  leif garret!!!…naw, leave him alone, he's suffered enough, but you get my drift."

here's the panopticon in a nutshell.  you follow some b-celebrity asshole like he's chaz bono at a sturgis rally and you photograph him until he snaps like cher, like piers brosnan fixit in his boxers, like matthew mccoughnahey on the beach at malibu, you photograph him until he coldcocks you with your camera (leave your leica home on this shoot.  time to whip out that trusty nikon d200 or canon d40 gathering dust mites in your closet).  actually, getting coldcocked with your camera is not such a bad way to pay your cable bill, but i digress…  suddenly the rags are innundated with shots of this poor bastard, tons of shots and by every decent pap in los angeles.  out of focus shots, half in a doorway shots, telephoto shots from 500 yards away, shots in the past worthy of only perhaps thomas pynchon or j.d. salinger, maybe even greta garbo if journalists had any balls back then.  this pandemonium lasts for three days and on the third day you camp out on his lawn hoping he'll call the cops.  finally the rags get wise and they start publishing all these shots with crazy headlines and suddently, every magazine in town is paying top dollar for any shot of this poor unsuspecting loser.  it's briliant! diabolical!  but that's mazursky for ya…

i coined it the panopticon though you won't read about that any where.  the media called it, aptly enough, the bang bang club and that's what stuck (sorry mates, no hard feelings…cheers!)  regardless, the panopticon lasted a few years back in the mid to late oughts.  it bought me few polorizing filters i can tell you and it bailed not a few paps out of the slammer.  

it all started when nikon announced the D1 back in the late 90s, the first reputable digital camera and suddenly, the game changed.  
[insert pap history, nikon history here]

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Confessions of a Stevedore VI (unedited text)

notes on steichen;  the effects of seeing garbo, so striking, sitting there with the weight of the world outside her doorstep, peeking through the blinds, welles fucking hayworth in the ass all the while dreaming of garbo swiming naked in a cement pond, seeing garbo after a furlong of staid imagery, contrivances, so bellicose fixit, so trite…all those goddammed incongruous milk bottles, then the effect of seeing garbo, really put the hooks in me.

i mention that i've been working on my book called the plight of mathew brady (civil war photographer and portraitist) and this prompts mazursky to  remind us of his obsession with dead english girls to which he tacks on a kind of spoken-word epitaph for amy winehouse.  we listen with reverence, not for winehouse but for mazursky and after a moment of silence i continue;  "so brady took this so-called daguerretype and ran with it, does what any self-respecting capitalist does; he channels it into a business and simultaneously launches what could rightly be called the greatest photographic invention in history, the snapshot!…i'm talking the first 2 x 3.5 photograph  i wrongly think that my revelations are riveting, that i will captivate my audience with my brilliant insights into this almost two century obsession with the photographic image but i have lost them, to the real estate holdings of groucho marx, the alarming suicide rate of b-actors and the current whereabouts of brooke bundy, possibly the tastiest piece of b-celebrity ass to grace the screen since angie dickenson.  (for those keeping score, she presently resides in new york city at the B.I.H. actor's studio, 6 E 46th St #402 New York, NY 10017).  i can't compete with this hollywood lore shit, i mean, i'm from lubbock texas and only two things come from lubbock texas…  brady peddled these cartes de visite to cival war soldiers like money from home, then he got the bright idea to document the war with his camera. 

the albumen process of printing allowed for mass production and the photojournalist and so-called professional photographer was born. but, he wrongly supposed that the u.s. government would finance his operations; what no historian, philosopher or budding entrepeneur could predict is the short attention span of the american public.  the majority of brady's negatives were lost or forgotten and he died a pauper in a charity ward hospital in new york city, an honorred member the second-rater's club, a sainted alumni of the also-rans and wily second sons of newly landed gentry; a victim of the gilded age, those starry-eyed dreamers and railroad speculators; the mark twainification of art and fiction, peddling rot to the little people in order to finance his wacky typesetters, "You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter…" fuck you, you shyster lawyer…not on my watch!  

when i get mazursky alone i press him for info on roberta.  he's a wiz at diagnosing mental disorders and keeps the dsm iv in his backpack, not that he needs it, but he claims it has gotten him layed more often amoung the 20 something set than any casual mention of bob & carol & ted & alice (who are we kidding here; the only twenty somethings that have heard of bob & carol & ted & alice are the olson twins and jennifer connelly and she's 41 years old!).  "roberta's fits and tantrums on hollywood blvd can only be attributed to bulimia nervosa," claims mazursky.  "that paired with a heavy dose of PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) and, obviously, dissociative identity disorder."  mazursky launches into a diatribe on how he came to this conclusion.  mazursky spent years trolling for roberta on the streets of los angeles, following her through the alleyways and through the mazes of dingbats between hollywood and sunset, east of gower, west of van ness, trying despartely to coax her into his car, tempting her with offers of chai tea lattes, even waiving 20 dollar bills from his car window.  her reluctance to acknowledge the almighty greenback is how mazursky figures she is need of medication, that and the fact that she hasn't bathed since 1971.  the only vestige of sanity she has managed to salvage is an unruly degree of fashion sense.  she is optimally robed no matter the season; thriftstore chic, a regular vagabond diana vreeland towing her wares in discarded billabong glides; never over burdened, never over packed, always in the guise of a frantic flight attendant, half-kempt, makeup courteosy of the bathroom at gower dennys and hair all sally jesse raphael; alarming combinations, not to mention her ginormouse double d's screaming braless in some filthy matte silk blouse, pendulous, hypnotic, sending mazursky into eplileptic shock and causing irreputable dammage to his front and rear bumpers. he has mastered the art of jacking off, following her all taxi-cab slow, steering with his knees and shifting with his right hand (mazursky's a lefty, thank the gods) waiting for her to reach the corner of carlton and gordon where she stoops and bends, whences and heaves, much like his precious 50 somethings, the retired ladies playing doubles tennis at agincourt, another of mazursky's hangouts.  mazursky sees her posing, her figure, all moddish twiggy or peggy lipton, silhoutted against the setting sun, the brim of her corduroy oliver twist newsboy cap cutting a striking figure, all noir ficiton cover, something frazetta might paint in the midst of some opium induced bender only to awaken, cold and sweating, beads collecting on his brow like moisture on the brow or jeremy bentham's leather skull.  

mazursky pants whenever he describes her form.  he has every precious sighting logged in his memory and can recal them at will.  he has been tempted to buy a van with huge sliding doors, hire some dayworkers at the local uhaul and do a pick-up, alight her gently but firmly on a bed of pillows and sequest her all james patterson in some dive inland empire lean-to.  i mean, why not?  it's obvious no one else wants her, no one cares.  he would feed her regularly, like a snake if necessary, to counter her bouts of bulimia, administer herbal remedies and vitamin c injections to regulate her mental deficiencies and he would give her douches and enemas and a summer of turkish baths; anything less he figures would leave minute trails of city smut buried deep in her tissues…and then, what next..? well, what would be… the story of o, contraptions and machinations that would curl the lips of the marquis de sade..! but, alas news would leak of his acquisition and his reputation, what little of it exists, would suffer.  "you can't keep anything a secret in this town," mazursky weeps.  

Saturday, November 12, 2011

confessions of a stevedore v (unedited text)

the fourth and last defining moment in my life:  horton hears a who, and i don't think i'm alone on this.  if i only had a nickel for all those boiled dustspecks…  horton is a sad bloated pachaderm fixit forever extolling the virtures of an alternate universe within the confines of an insignificant dustspeck.  (notice to vendors: some dustspecks are better off boiled)

i saw kathy hale at the starbucks on the corner of (prominent midtown new york locale, near biz center or journalistic center etc) hocking her photos online to some (relevant news organziation), gesticulating like elektra on the patio with white apple earbuds strangling down her neck.  it was the plight of this or that underprivileged minority, these or those recent immigrants, political exiles or just plain migrant workers or some 70s famous plight du jour.  by her fits and hysterical (hand waving) i could tell the rag was having none of it.  i know the feeling, sadly, from both ends.  one man's (cross to bear, spanish inquisition, trial of sisyphus, irrelevant fixit political exiles dujour…another man's yesterday's news, unclicked links sequestered in an online news archive awaiting some home schooled fourth grader doing a report on (unrelevant geological event that affects some remote and unimportant land mass).  she is chicken little shaking her little crab claw, ratso rizzo caught in the middle of the crosswalk, that lunatic at the junction of the santa monica freeway and pch, proselytizing on 2012 and the evils of hydrogenated soybean…

you should hear the eggheads debating the relevance of ron galella, his sometimes inclusion in famed art galleries throughout the world.  i tell you pictures are either good or bad, they either work or they don't.  i don't care what they're about or who's in them.  i know this conjures up a host of incongruities fixit that would make susan sontag turn in her grave (no disrespect)…behold:  queen victoria on a horse...  the horse rearing?  no, the incongruity fixit of the scene, the contrast; this curdmugeon fixit roosting over the world's largest empire, victoria fat, uhealthy, the stagedness of the photograph.  is she led around like some child on a pony, with a drewl cup and dunce hat, has she ever been on a horse before, why does she need it stayed. the picture reeks of revolution, romanovs on lonely railroad cars on vacated tracks, trotsky sipping tea with frida kahlo fixit, louis the XVI and his collection of locks.   what does this picture signify, a link to the past, her english roots, their connection with nature, why do we need to see queen vic on a  horse and what does it signify.

i want you to consider two famous photographs.  hugh diamond's picture of a patient at the surrey county lunatic asylum, the picture generally associated with him.  diamond thought he could document a patient's disorder through photography.  he thought that a person's condition would be manifested through the objectivity of the camera lens.  a direct quote:  a photograph "catches in a moment the permanent cloud, or the passing storm or sunshine of the soul, and thus enables the metaphysician to witness and trace out the connexion between the visible and the invisible." we know this going in.  the photograph contains a caption.  the woman's cloud or passing storm is indeed visible in the caption but not necessarily in the photograph itself, which could be a depiction of any typical commoner working in any textile factory of any suburb of london…  but the caption reminds us that she is not just any worker in a factory; she is in fact a mentally ill person.  this fact alters our perception of the photograph immensely.  at once she becomes the very eptiome of the dispossed fixit, this "passing storm."  her seemingly calm demeanor shadows a myriad of psychosomatic conditions, her unkempt hair, not just the  result of a days hard work but her inabilty to sit still, her likely violent and insidious outbursts, her sound and fury…

the second photo (name photo) shows a girl with an obviously retarded child.  no caption is required.  yet, like the previous photograph of the asulym patient, there is nothing particularly artistic about either of these photos, not in the lighting or compostion.  both photographs entice us along a kind of photographic sixth sense, a condition or an element known to us, the viewer, but not included in the photographs themselves.  of course, the child's condition is visible in the photo but his retardation is not significant in any kind of "photographic" sense.  unless we were apprised fixit of the notion of retardation and its visible attributes, this photograph would be quite meanglingless, possibly a family photo, nicely shot but insignificant.  yet we have been apprised the visible signs of mental retardation so this photo becomes significant, to more or less a certain degree, along this so-called sixth sense.  diane arbus does this to us.  it's not that pictures of freaks are in and of themselves significant or visually interesting, it's that they become interesting within the context of the photo, within the juxtopostion of their compostion; a freak family unit, a decidedly unnatractive transvestite in curlers (as if curled hair will aide in his appearance), the waifish child with an impish grin and handgrenade etc etc…  i give arbus credit for knowing how to take reasonably well-photographed images but above all, for knowing how to manipulate our photographic sixth sense, or more specifically, our sense of personnal comfort.  none of these photographs would be interesting in any kind of photographic sense unless we were possessed of this so-called photographic sixth sense, that of knowing that these people are in fact freaks and are not normally photographed in such dispossessing conditions.

the question regarding galella is whether or not his photographs are interesting beyond the fact they are of well-known celebrities.  do these photographs contain interest beyond the photographic sixth sense.  i would say yes, most emphatically they do.  of course there are exections, as there are to any photographers ouvre fixit (jackie o being a decided exception, in fact, i can barely think of one photograph of her that merits any attention at all(-)perhaps possibly the one of her in the limo with arie fixit).  but galella's photograph of travolta on the streets, presley in a car, mcqueen drinking coffee, sophia loren, robert redford, andy wharhol or edward the VII and wallace simpson(-)all these shots would exist outside the confines of the photographic sixth sense.  

 i shudder to think what kind of pictures galella would have taken if he had shot on the streets.  gary winogrand can place his mouth precariously close to ron galella's crotch any day!  i usually stear clear of arguments about what art is or isn't.  they usually degenerate into a reading of bartlett's quotations, napoleon bonaparte; "a picture is worth a thousdand words…" etc.  but for the record; most self-respecting photographers want beautiful subjects, well lit and candid.  at the very least, you have to give galella credit for getting close to these celebrities and still manage to catch them off guard, though of course he was shooting in a day when journalists/photojournalists still had something of a code of ethics.  to be fair, celebrities back then didn't have radar in the back of their heads like sean penn or lindsay lohan.

okay, if you want a quote i'll give you one:  "barthes:  camera lucida...a photograph is never anything but an antiphon of look, a child gesturing "that, there it is, lo!
you won't find this in bartlett's and you won't find this carved as an ephitaph on the gravestone of ron galella (if he ever dies, the old buzzard).  of course, the image or scene must merit your attention or it's not worth looking at let alone photographing.  now, to sit around and debate the criteria required to make an image worth looking at is an excersize in futility i'm not willing to undertake.  suffice to say that given the current state of affairs in photojournalism and photography in general, beauty is is in the eye of the beholder.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

confessions of a stevedore

part iv (unedited text)

when in rome, when dallying around the parthenon and (associative) climes, don't forget to mention the RVG Editions, though not horace silver or john coltrane; stay rooted in the garmet district: (name the more popular editions) refrain from worldly insights and revelations… stick to bread and butter, brahms in aspic, fisherman's wharf and haight ashbury.  ludus tonalis is right out, so too the later string quartets of darius milhaud and unless your host(s) are sporting edward teller pins, stear clear of godel escher bach.  work in a reference to love and forever changes, dusty springfield and the memphis sound, the nelson riddle arrangements, father knows best and the plight of billy mummey FIXIT.  this is your key to llama land, to bailey FIXIT park and laurel canyon.

now and again, i see kathy hale in my dreams, braving times square and 52nd street, not the times square of dick clark, but of lindsay, koch and dinkins, the Manhatten: Parts of Harlem
Staten Island: West Brighton
Queens: Queensbridge, Jamica
Bronx: Mott Haven, Soundview, South Bronx
Brooklyn: East New York, Brownsville, Bushwick

Read more:

her nikon f, meterless, strapless, a nikkor 50mm 1.2, cocked and ready at f11 and pre-focused to 10 feet, and pockets full of (film she would use) a whistle and a can of mace…  she sells stock photos of jamaican immigrants and puerta ricans, exiled cubans (be more specific…check for controversial 70s immigration) but she retains her preference for miss havishems, the jaded exilled ladies of the georgetown social club and sightings of lee radziwill.  her walls are adorned with lee, always smiling radiantly, courting the 400 with f16 (get exact quote).  lee likes kathy because she doesn't use a flash; no ron galella tactics here… her photos are warm and flat, mildly wharholesque, muted tones and full of grain.  and of course, kathy's a woman, running the gauntlet in a medium dominated by men; remnants of o'keefe fixit, (jane cambell?? exotic 19th century; see photo book)(check also; more female photographers), leibovitz stalking the halls of the riot house.

and then i awaken, often as not in a starbucks or coffee bean, peets or dupairs fixit, partially slumped up against a corner with a card reader dangling from a mac book air, logged on to flickr in the middle of some debate over double stroke leicas.  you can get free coffee if you're persistant; just make precient fixit comments to young men with jimmy dean hornrims fixit, praising some local dive band or some fritz lang epic but be careful…your antics (and southern charm) can get them fired.

i always keep a leica m3 on my table, a 50mm collapsible 2.0 summicron and a hopelessly uncalibrated light meter which gives the overall look something out of a, completely brassed and shredded with nicks and dings fixit (name 1950s horror matinnee/jack arnold/creature black lagoon) (i'm many things but i'm no collector).  honestly, i don't know what all these collectors are up to with all these pristine leicas.  you have to commit a few fouls or you're not really in the game.  i use my f'd up leica as a calling card of sorts, a kind of roland barthe tell-tale flapping in the breeze just waiting for some hipster to saunter up with a pocketful of sly annecdotes.  oddly enough, the original leather cases foster more attention than the cameras themselves.  this doesn't surprise me as a leica in a case, on display on the mantel or buried in some sock door is its usual plight, given up for dead, an impluse buy on some asian sorte fixit, quiet americans on leave in the more fashionable districts of saigon fixit, a surfeit of cash and middle class malaise?  that's why you can pick up these jewels on ebay, lovingly preserved, these obelisks of metal and leather, citadels of a german indian summer, (carnivorous morlocks in a palace of green porceline???fixit check welles time machine text)(-)so pristine in their glory that on first glance your as likely as not to continue their incubation, bury them in some dry climate controlled glass chamber, (a testament to a simpler, more perfect epoch, kilroy was here and this is what he saw, this is what he did)

two things come up on a cursory search on wikipedia for the term paparazzi.  first, a song title by lady gaga and second, an entry for the term paparazzi:

Paparazzi /pɑːpəˈrɑːtsi/ (singular: (m) Paparazzo Italian: [papaˈɾattso] or (f) Paparazza) is an Italian term used to refer to photojournalists who specialize in candid photography of celebrities, politicians, and other prominent people. Paparazzi tend to be independent contractors, unaffiliated with a mainstream media organization.[1]

(play on the initial, surface impressions paparazzi conjures and contrast with a hint of what your ideas are)

forget paparazzo from dolce vita.  why not, everyone else has.  today paparazzis are pond scum reproducing exponentially with each new revalation in digital technology.  no such thing as a full time pap these days.  too much competition, too many weekend warriors, too many cells sporting 12 megapixels and lenses rivalling zeiss.  in the immortal words of jazzman (ex-patriot from bird, probably sax player etc) "you can't make no living as a paparazzi in the states."  as a mass of swarming ants marching on some machine gun turret, they are tolerated, but solitary paps are anathema, the epitome of societal evil, second cousins to sex offenders and serial killers, that neighbor down the street with the shutters, rusted out mailbox and earthquake fissures in his driveway(-)intellectuals and listeners of gustav mahler, that teachers pet in community college, the one in the fedora finishing all the punch lines of the teachers annecdotes.  walk down the street with anything more than iphone or canon powershot and you're immediately suspect.  in this town, the usual line is that evey waiter is an actor.  the truth is that every waiter is a writer/director or producer.  we leave acting to leaf blowers and pizza delivery men.  on the streets of this town, you must be prepared with reams of model release forms for all the security guards and liquor store owners, dads from wisconsin on third street promenade, aunt julie from saschatewan and forget about some random sighting of a celebrity on the beach.  if her cousin from the sticks doesn't kick your ass some surfer will, thinking, as is his want, that the beach is jerusalem and its inhabitants the meek and underserving, lepers and underfed lying in wait for john the baptist or rashan roland kirk (take your pick).  i don't get all these spreads in star magazine, the hot bodies versus the celluliteers.  my suspicion is that they're staged.  i find it hard to believe that any self-respecting photographer has the free-time to haunt the beaches of southern california in the hopes of spotting some b-actress in the midst of repose.  more likely than not, it's the work of the morlocks; failed jocks and water boys, personal trainers and night club bouncers who pay their gas bill with random sightings of scantily clad cast members from the real housewives of beverly hills.  these guys are brutes, 6'4" and up and who's got the moxie to argue with them. lucky for me, in their gloveboxes they all have nikon d90s, kit lenses and dave busch's guide to digital slr photography, but unlucky for me their numbers are legion and they get all the front row seats at any event and you can't see over them so take my advice and just stay home.

it's not the dissaproving looks of kevin spacey or alec baldwin that grate on my nerves because they all know the territory.  it's glances and side comments from the gallery; mothers from new haven connecticut fixit and all those prescious darlings on spring break with iphones and foster the people t-shirts, the "little people" as we so effectionately refer to them(-)the newly scrubbed offspring of the unwashed masses who wear their middle class mories fixit on their sleaves like some jack straw tattoo on a jersy punk.  so convinced of their superiority, their congeneal credit ratings fixit and their collection of starbucks gift cards which garner a hefty price on ebay.  so self-righteous in their condemnation of anything non-analagous to an episode of the simpsons (does a tree fall in the woods while watching an episode of the sopranos?), so indignant they become when in the presence of leeches like me, feeding carnivorously fixit like remoras on the goatees of celebrity land sharks.  i would like to think that my past time is an amalgam, a result of years spent pondering the various philosophies, a natural outgrowth, a kind of evolutionary appendage but the truth is that i have a difficult time explaining my theories of mcluhan's understanding media while chasing the olson twins down melrose avenue with a 600mm prime L lens dangling between my legs like mandingo on a chase lounge in the backyard of some orange county lean-to. fixit  on the chase (fixit, can;t have two "chases"), you don't notice their looks of suspicion, but once they catch up to you at dupairs while you're uploading all your prize cash cows, their glances become daggers, their guffaws and eye rolls hollow-point bullets ripping into your flesh and penetrating your psyche, wreaking havoc with your convictions and stirring up deep seated memories of ellis island (or the mayflower, if you are so disposed).  you would think that the ones that have the titanium balls to confront me are the worst but not so…  i amply supplied with a lifetime of quips and repartee, certainly enough scorch the pre-natal hairs off of billy's chest, but it's the ones in the corner or the ones ordering chai soy lattes to go, the ones i'll never reach…  those are the ones that hurt the most.  like pete townsend, i want to bite and kiss them…these rough boys in sears leather…knock off gucci and tjay max fixit…to (confer to them the folly of their evil ways)…no, to make amends??? to beg forgiveness???  to hear my acts of contrition???

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

confessions of a stevedore 3

part 3 (unedited)

confessions 3

du-par's restaurant and bakery since 1938, farmer's market, corner of fairfax and 3rd, 3:00 am

i've been coming here for almost 30 years, though not half as long as paul mazursky.  mazursky haunts this place.  like a kind of filmic quasimoto fixit he saunters from table to table, greeting the 400 and trading war jibes about 70s realism and the editing skills of hal ashby.  "llama land is a misnomer," he says...
 "concocted by wannabe zoot suiters, mock hipsters, mailers white negroes
 remoras attached to the goatee of lenny bruce, chroniclers of beat solos..."  you need an advanced degree in rat pack just to piss next to this guy in the men's room.  but, it's his house, his rice's his rules or the highway.

i have to admit, it's taken a few well placed jibes pissing next to this guy in the men's room to even get the time of day but it's been worth it.  he knows just about everything about this town, the lore, the mythology, the sad history of the brandbury, bunker hill and central avenue...jazz!  and who the fuck knows that shit—i mean really knows it.  you don't qualify just because you have a copy of kind of blue or love supreme in your collection.  you have to know what what charlie parker had for dinner at billy bergs december fixit 1945 or what reed eric dolphy used in uppsala.  forget having read chandler or having a hardon for veronica lake, you have to be able to write chandler know who veronica is buried next to.  mazursky and ilk are all done recruiting.  their war stories leak out painfully in the throws of a diabetic fit, between bouts of manic depression and free refills at starbucks (as long as that pencil necked geek is behind the counter—the one who pulled a tour of duty at samy's one summer and is now enrolled this fall, corteosy fixit of daddy's coat tails, in the new york film academy...he's doomed of course, fated to trolling goodwills for kodac tele-instamatics, the singleman party foxtrot and sunporch cha-cha-cha on vinyl, but mazurkys crew won't tell him that—they call him "the kid" and fill his head with visions of sunadance and irving thalbergs)

i hooked mazursky with a bit of filmic histronics;  i'm a little proud of this tidbit that i picked up so i'll share it with you in-toto...  did you ever wonder how orson welles came to know so many personnal details about the life of william randolph hearst?  details like his pet name for davies' clit?  well, it's no secret that herman mankiewicz hung out with hearst at the castle, in fact, he paled around mostly with marion davies—they were commited drinking buddies (mankiewicz's downfall by the way) and they used to have to sneak around behind hearst's back, even going to the trouble of hiding liquor bottles in the castle.  one of their hiding spots was behind books on bookshelves.  you know that famous scene, the one where kane destroys susan alexander's room..?  there's a quick shot of him raking a bookshelf and suddenly finds a bottle that he quickly and with mild disgust tosses across the room...  the scene happens so fast that it's possible to miss it entirely, or to lump it in indistinguishable from the ongoing malestrom fixit.  most people are looking for that bit where he cuts his hand and hides the blood from the camera.  well, i've never heard anyone mention the scene,  not pauline kael, not roger ebert or even peter bogdonovich fixit, orson's self-appointed protege (bogdonovich has run a few sorties fixit at farmer's market—i have the pictures to prove it!).

i slipped it in once while passing his table.  they were talking about greg toland (who isn't in this town) and they migrated to mankie and his antics with marion.  it didn't hurt that i was carrying a twin lens rolleiflexRolleiflex 3.5F TLR, lovingly restored, cocked and ready (i love the 120 medium size film format but we'll go into that later).  i was careful not to fire off a few candids...i'm not that dumb.  i waited, bided my time until i was asked to join the round table.  then, of course, they asked me to take a pictures of them.  five hours later i brought back three or four 8 x 10s and i was in like flint.

the lackeys and hangers on, the wannabe ex-easy riders and raging bulls can get a bit thick at times.  you never who to believe.  here is andrew jackson sporting his stp t-shirt again and brushing up on the jacobins fixit.  the basement tapes he lauds to the balcony, sighting their turgidity, tenacity and their uncanny resemblence to gnostic texts.  he flips the bill of the bourgeoise in a series of clever runes, challenges them to a bought of sudoko and raises his eyebrow at the skinny young thing apping channel.  the world and all who habitate will reap their comeuppance—this he knows through interpreting feynman and studying the tibetan book of the dead.  to the would be joyceans he points with relish to a sign on his subission guidelines page:  we are leery of the overly prosaic...

and this guy over here, hair club for men, the one in the cardigan and glassless horn rimmed glasses—he leaves abstractions to the landed gentry.  forever whistling holst and deligting in tales of the lunatic express, he brands himself by lack of idle chatter and his abject refusal to sing the happy birthday song, prefering instead the orotorios of handel and a few verses of the ancient mariner, just enough to set it on its head.  he's a confirmed brahmsian and tosses around  mark twain quotes like some midwest substitute teacher

mazursky sees king leapold and his cohorts eating gelato on the patio.  they better not come in, not on his watch.  not to worry...nothing that a few jabs at british petrolium would't fix.  besides, what do they know of particle physics and double entendres...alan alda and the history of the wpa—fodder for nazi baitors, ballast for the simple souls.  mazursky could tell them a thing or two about buonooarti (?), not that they wouild listen.  to them zecharia is a peddler outside the tom bradley international terminal prosletising on sp 2012 and reeking of toe cheese.  from the onset of type two diabetes you would think that the latinates got it wrong.  automation, the offspring of henry ford and the internal combustion engine have weaned us off the greeks for good.  fixit.... reverse order

everyone's got their holy grails, their own particilar contemporary rosetta stones, jack the rippers, killers of black dahlias... i'm no different though mine is in the form of a magazine clipping.  an image ripped from the pages of some 70s smut magazine...i found her, my black dahlia, amoung miles of chapparell, perhaps a furlong, within a spawnfield of teen angst littered with cigarette packs, water bongs and used condoms, her photo nestled in the foosteps of jim morrison the backdrop for waiting for the sun or jim rockford's trailer in malibu and in the distance imported date palms, bouganvilla and iceplant from outerspace, also in the distance, dingbats and straight lines, false doorways and beamed ceilings, on the hillside, case study houses and the lure of serial murders.

You may not remember her.  Her name was Evangelina Cisneros but for the sake of brevity we'll call her Angie (I think Evangelina Cisneros was her stage name but don't quote me on that) She had, what would pass today for common vernacular, a butter face But like the vestiges fixit of Michelangelo's Pieta repleat with garlic farts and bouts of exima fixit together with her numerous injurious ruins-I (injurious ruins and all...) forgave her all She was my fixit lolita "say it trippingly on the tongue..." She had the mute expression of a harware store owner's daughter the one in the back, with the nails and trip wire.  She had the face of one of Erda's neices or a rhine maiden kept sequestered beneath the surface.
In truth she was the spitting image of a girl who sat in the back row of Mrs. Robson's class, 2nd grade...she had a forgettable face.  

but her figure was something out of giselle, margaret fonteyn fixit (ballet term fixit), with flopping double dds of course.  she had nothing less than viking lines, quaint amazonian shoulders, 5'10" in her bare stockings and long california hair

(insert my meek iseult here)

mazursky showed me the picture, on his iphone no less.  there she was, in the midst of some vision quest, her tits in mid flight and all those onlookers pretending not to care too much.  this fiasco, this penultimage child of eden had taken this free love thing just a little too far.  no crime in 1970.  she was that dancing naked chick in the maysels film gimme shelter.  i never put the two together, how could...i had never seen the film, or maybe i had, bits of it, the scene with the gun and mick's insociance fixit.  and mazursky even knew her name, evangelina cisneros, a big tit model in the early to mid 70s, a russ meyer protege though she only appeard briefly in one film that never made it off the cutting room floor.  i have a copy of that thanks to youtube.

(here...inset iseult poem out of mazurskys mouth)                    

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

confessions of a stevedore

part 2 (unedited)

confessions 2

"i use a digital slr camera for all my professional work but my personnal preference is for film..."

there are no variations on this theme.  this is pretty much government issue for all serious lovers of photography.  annie leibovitz fixit shoots all day with hassleblads but in her down time she shoots with those stupid little point and shoot 10 megapixel compacts.

i know what you're thinkkng—it's all slumming, a deliberate dumming down, sneetches fixit trading in their stars to differentiate themselves from the masses.  but you're wrong...perhaps not about annie leibovitz, but she's a freaking kook, or so i've heard.  film has its rightful place, it's own particular sainted nitche in the world of art photography and in some very special cases, it reigns supreme.  here is a breakdown:

first, i admit there are idiots out there that shoot with film because they get a nice warm fuzzy feeling.  all that history and analogness...has to be good right?  there is also the school of thought that equates all things evil with digital, a selling of our collective artistic souls.  digital to them is a lie, counterfiedt fixit. an approximation.  a diabolical plot of the knights templar to suck our brains dry and turn us all into little neo-cons.  lovers of analogue pine for the tape hiss, the friendly warm reassuring scratching sound of the needle on vinyl, edward weston's  Pepper No. 30 on silver gelatin.  i have go say that i  dont exactly fall lock step into these kinds of arguements.  i'm not exactly confused about most media and it's confusion, ignorance and just plain naievete sp that leads down this road.

that's not to say that there isn't a grain of truth to all this digital bashing, it's just that the majority of what passes for water cooler chatter is just that—a lot of chatter.  the rub is that digital is too clean, too unforgiving.   moore's law is wearing a little thin,  not that it doesn't hold true.  it more than likely does (but who keeps up with all that crap).  it's just that all this technology has obscurred the one true tenet of artistic endeavor—that of the search for the lost note, the eternal music of the spheres, that indefinable something that distinguishes a vivian maier photo from that of a john q tourist...

let be me more specific;  in the early days of digital cameras, i mean the mid to late oughths, the days when digitial sensors were more or less perfected and pixel count became more about marketing than any real selling point,  when the market fell out of memory cards and hard drive space....i shot on average about 5,000 photos a week and on average i saved about 10 to 15 of those photos.  by that i mean that only about 10 to 15 pictures would i consider part of my ouvre, a decent sampling of my work or style, photos that i woudn't be too embarrassed to admit that i took, photos that i might show to fellow stevedores.  that's an absurd ratio—something around .01 percent.

so what's wrong wrong with this picture?  if todays digital imaging cameras deliver more quality than yesterday's film cameras (and they don't, not always) wherein lies the dilema sp.

the dilema is this:  film has a higher dynamic range than digital.  by that i mean that a piece of film can better display the full range of tones within a dynamic range.  lets say that we are taking a picture that has many differrent degrees of light, in other words, lots of sun, lots of shade.  digital cameras are really really good at rendering one particular dynamic at a time, either sun or shade.  they are not good at rendering both at the same time.  so if you are taking a picture that has subjects in the shade and in the sun, your digital camera only wants to properly develop (or expsose) one of these subjects, either the light or the shade.  now, all things being equal (meaning that we are using a digital sensor that is roughly equivalent to say...35mm film—not all digital sensors are the same size as 35mm film, in fact most of them are much much smaller.  to put this in perspective, a decent digital camera and lens that is equivalent to 35mm film will cost you damn close to 4,000 dollars!) like i was saying, all being equal, given an image that has only one dynamic range, lets say sunny, both the digital and film camers will give you something valid and useful, albeit different.  the difference is largely that of grain and texture.  film has a certain look to it, a filmic look—that of grain and relative softness.  digital cameras can produce images that are sharper and have more clarity, but it's a sharpness of a digital kind that is not always beneficial or flattering.  film more closely reproduces what our eyes see...or, and i could be playing my hand here—film more closely reproduces what our eyes have become accustomed to seeing—images that have some degree of softness and grain, more forgiving, more, dare i say, analog?

i can hear the haters in the gallery and they are screaming "hey!  what about hdr?"  hdr or high dynamic range photography is something of a dirty word amoung true fans of photography.  hdr is a term that largely means bracketing, that of taking a series of snapshots with a range of expsosures.  with film, the images can be double or tripled expsoed in the camera or this can also be done in the darkroom.  with digital, a range of exposure can be set within the camera, usually three images that are taken one right after the other.  these images are then merged within a software program on the computer, such as photoshop.  hdr photos tend to look like some kind of poster for a james cameron film or a typical fantasy book jacket du jour sp.  they tend to look fake, generally because the bracketing is too high, too dynamic and too unnatural looking, hence the fantasy references.

the truth behind the obsession with film cameras is that photographers have lost over the years their true objective, that of taking a good image.  these machine gun  antics of most tourists and newbie paps do nothing to achieve the goal of taking a great photo.  using film cameras reinstills this lost art.  a photographer is once again forced to look with his eyes and rely on his wits, and in most cases, he must rely on his knowledge of exposure, shutter speeds, film speeds and aperture settings because a lot of these old film cameras don't have built-in light meters which means that it's up to you to get the right exposure.

sure, there is the argument that digital slrs are bigger by nature than film cameras. they have huge lenses and bodies to house all this technology and they are a bit intimidating to the general public.  a pap with a decent camera rig can be seen a mile away whereas a gent with a small rangefinder camera around his neck is largely scene as a gentleman stroller out to take in the sights, not plaster your photo all over hello magazine.  if your objective is to take great pictures then you have to do what it takes to get a great shot.  pros generally get by with long telephoto shots of their subjects, especially paps who generally can't get close enough without getting their asses kicked.  any shot of bernie madoff hailing a cab downtown will sell, so why not just get a telephoto shot from a mile away.  but, all the really great street shots are taken at close range and generally with 35 to 50mm lenses.

the notion that rangefinders are more stealthly is a crock, especially from a paps point of view.  who cares if they see you coming.  did jackie o see ron galella coming.  we wouldn't have that shot of her smiling at him otherwise and who's ready to trade that in.  sophia loren...forget about it.

but there is a kind of validity to wrapping an old leica m3 around your neck, nice old leather strap, an elmar 50mm...brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation.  carter-bresson, that cat walk of his, on tippy toes immortalizing the crepe makers.  galella courting the great whore of the twentieth century, though he shot nikon...    there's a magic too of not knowing what you've shot, not caring and being deliciously surprised perhaps weeks later.  i can't quantify it.  suffice it to say that chicks dig it and let's move on.

du-par's restaurant and bakery since 1938, farmer's market, corner of fairfax and 3rd, 3:00 am...  

Monday, July 25, 2011

confessions of a stevedore

part 1

confessions 1

there is a common misconception about our lot, one that relegates us somewhat below the stevedore, in terms of sophistication, breeding and slightly above judas of macabeea sp.  i don't mind the judas comment, especially coming as it usually does from corn fed housefraus towing a litter of brats, their mouths bursting with hydrogenated soybean and sporting the lastest in digital compact camera technology, which i might add, can be really quite impressive...especially those new 4/3 size sensors with (multiple lens support), but slightly below the stevedore in terms of sophistication!  never.

in my profession there is a lot of down time and generally you can pick your own hours.  downtime leads to reading.  newspapers, magazines, raymond chandler...always raymond chandler, especially in this town.  i don't cotton much to the new kids on the block, all aping joe giddis and dripping with exagerated histrocity.  give me the classics; chandler, hammet, cain...john mccormack on a rainy afternoon...graham greene...forget about it!   not an afternoon at starbucks goes by without some pap dropping a graham greene line.  goes with the territory, the romance of it all.  and take my word for it, there is a romance to it all...granted, it's a distant cousin to tolstoy but it's there all the same, if you choose to look.

that's what i mean by the stevedore comment.  five paps on a hilton shoot, and i mean hilton back in the day, debating the gilded age and the rise of ida busters and verbleens theory of the leisure class, all five took a powder on hilton emerging from county to debate and discuss the environmental conditions that led to the emergence of paps and tabloid journalism,  jfk and the death of the gentleman press.  not exactly your first monday of the month book club pre-chatter.  theories were posited, conjectured, debated and at the risk of giving away  the farm, lets just say that in this country, we all work for a living.

i don't mean to come off like some rube on a city counsil gig, but there is a great line from a movie, clint eastwood's the unforgiven (you'll note that i refer to directors first when referencing film), the scene where english bob decries the state of democracy in america and "a president...well, why not shoot a president..!" i agree to a certain extent, not with assassinating a president but with the circumstances that (allow) one to be shot.  i won't aplogize for my abhorrance for democracy but i do aplogize for relying on movie quotes to get my point across.  but, of course, this is a starbucks in santa monica, not the round table at the algonquin hotel (fix).  when in rome... i guess what i'm saying is that this grand experiment, this two and half century long project in jacksonian democracy is not without its drawbacks.  we essentialy wait upon ourselves.  it's difficult to smile and kow-tow to the slacker in ripped jeans when just yesterday he was serving you yogurt and punching your buy-ten-get-one-free card.  i mean, where's the grandeur, where's the magic—the je ne se qua?

i think that a perfectly mobile society is a bit of a misnomer.  sure, you can make it in this country...why not, but for every self-made man there is some trust fund baby sipping espresso in some local coffee house dive gesturing snarkily at all these pathetic ceos and their iron clad copies of dale carnegie, their 16 hour days and their steadfast belief in thank-you emails.  it's a viscious cycle, one dr seuss would revel in.  i'm a trust fund baby.  i have no problem admitting that.  it's just a fact, another cycle in the wheel for which i have neither the time nor the inclination to deceipher sp.  i eek out my own particular pathetic existence in dilapidated coffee house diners, sammy's camera on fairfax avenue and across the street at farmer's market—which is a pap's wetdream; an eclectic mix of old los angeles (term for new chic etc fixit)  sapphron for bokeh nerds and not at all a bad way to pay your gas bill.

an analogie i like is that dude from the hustler, findley, murray hamilton, a gentleman, and i use that term loosely, photographer, essentially an amateur photographer just waiting for someone like vivian maier to show up and kick my ass—i've got sort of a old southern bent, a mild lackadaisical refrain and i have habit of strolling, not unlike hannibal lecter, towards my next victim, my next assignment.  i'm not really in it for the money, just the action, the thrill of it all—truth be known, i get bored easily.    like i've said, i don't really need the money although i'm not above the odd stock photo and contrary to popular opinion, i do portraits on occassion, for friends and associates—yes, i've done the odd wedding but only for commrades and besides, there's that vivian maier shot of the bride running towards the car that in my humble opinion rivals anything shot by carter-bresson.  weddings are apocraphal moments.  terminal bridesmaids and lackey best men, bitter maids of honor and those future pall bearers all pefectly lit and posed. as for all this tourist shit, i more or less have to in order to keep up appearances.  you see, my close friends (and what's left of family) have no clue what i really do with my camera.  i think they would be horrified.  admitting your a pap doesn't exactly go off well at cocktail parties.  well, let's just say it's not about the money.

i won't bore you with the details, but it's all qbout the gear.  the evolution of the digital single reflex camera...i could write volumes.  i was tempted by the first nikon d1 but i resisted.  1999 and it went for about 5,000.  ridiculous, but it replaced film at most newspapers at a mere 2.7 megapixels.  remarkable. i jumped on board the dslr bandwagon with the nikon d200 back in 2006 but later switched to canon when the accolades started pouring in about the eos 5d mark ii and its adoption by every major film studio in town and it's used almost exclusively by several tv shows i would'nt be caught dead watching...but i'm beginning to bore...

most paps are closet camera geeks,  nikon fan-boys, retro fanatics whose encyclopdic knowledge of subjects ranging from ansel adams and henri carter-bresson fixit to the evolution of leica rangefinders and the onslaught of the all mighty nikon f makes the collier brothers akin to a couple of tweens collecting pokemon.  while gear is vital, the trees of the vast forest, it's not the end-all by any stretch of the imagination.  one mention of capa's death of a loyalist soldier and you'll be locked in a deathmatch of wits and philosophical conumdrums... mysteries of the universe...hydrogenated soybean...twitter...celebrity rehab... why susan sontag's book on photography is, in point of fact—sold in bookstores in the photography section next to canon rebel manuals... i can mix it up with the best of them when it comes to camera lore, but when you start jabbering about holgas fixit, the death of polaroid, hdr photography and how stealthy are the leica rangefinders, it's time for time for me to call a cab.  there are arguments, postulates, theories and extrapulations on the rise and fall of the photographic esthetic, it's ursupatation sp of the painterly art of portraiture, it's subsequent hegemony (the era of photographic essay) fixit, but when you boil right down to it—dslrs, good ones, the second, third or fourth gen monsters that are now finally available are a fucking  godsend to street photographers, paps and photo journalists.  i remember when vogue magazine actually had articles.  not any more.  why pay plum sykes when some teenage freelance photographer on flickr is pumping out 18 megapixel images of the cellulite on zoe deshanel's thighs using a canon EF 70-200mm f2.8 L IS II USM lens (which, by the way, on the 7d's APS-C sensor turns the effective focal length to something in the neighborhood of over 300mm...) (i'm not a zoe basher by the way)    


issues of privacy, essays, famous cases etc.          

chk: michael douglas kathrine zeta jones wedding pics, brittish law, privacy, other famous paps...onassis etc.

... this is a t-shirt wearing town.

it's difficilt to discuss my obsession with the original nikon f without i descend a rung or two on the old evolutionary ladder . . .which is up your line, you, the marvel comic fanatic, not nick the nazi sympathizer...  one doesn't really talk about film cameras, range finders and exaktas, not at anything resembling a pap rally (any shoot where paps hang out) lest you run the risk of getting your ass kicked.  but, there is a great line attributed to susan sontag when asked about the onslaught of computer word processors—"i don't want to write with anything that makes the writing process easier..."  i'm paraphrasing of course, but a point can be made about the current onslaught of digital cameras and their subsequent hegemony in photo journalism, they're abject and stinking foray into the realm of tourism (i've shared the pit with paps shooting on iphones and if you know anything about vingetting fixit and various other lens defects you can spot iphone pictures within the folds of any fixit asshole tabloid magazine) and the sad fact that our so-called noble profession, that of the photojournalist, has been hijacked by a mob of day-trippers, shutter happy weekend warriors who've discovered that their decade long sorties as latch key children resigned to super mario brothers have spawned nicely into a new trade—that of the paparazzi.  congratulations, you can hold down a button with the best of them.

don't get me started on critizizing what passes for contemporary photojournalism these days.  yes, an infinite number of monkeys on a typewriter will eventually catch the cellulite on the back legs of said movie star emerging from the waves at some exclusive malibu beach enclave but, the f-stop will be wrong and the exposure is courteosy of some geek on photoshop in the editing closet of hello magazine.  point and shoot cameras have fixed f-stops and automatic iso, digital zooms and in some cases, lenses that should be selling next to eye-glass magnifiers at your local .99 cent store.      

my fucked up camera bag
leica as door operner  you would probably get your assed kicked at a pap rally, kike showing up in (sex pistol territory) with a gibson les paul or some pre cbs sunburst strat sturttiong like a teddy and sipping (relevant cocktails).  abput the snob exists, especially in this town. are you kidding me?  barbeques, pool games, dodger games (wouldnt go to q dodger game for all the tea in chinatwon...i'd go, but i would just excuse myself feiging a trip to thr hptdog stand and tale a strool trhough chavez ravine, maybe chinatown or elysian park...  

i've seen those youtube videos and some of are great and some of them are leave it to beaver.  well,  ot to give away my penchant for the succession of the stewarts, but youtube is a little middle brow for me and putting my face up on youtuve and trying to remain true to my pap roots is anathema.

photographer from three days of the condor, faye dunaway, kathy hale, hommage to, ode to, fantasy on a theme of kathy hale

you havenet seen three days of the condor, but then one man"s dvd collection is another man's detritus...not mine of course, i have awesome taste in film, unlike my little gen-yster co-horts—most older folks do since their taste in film developed at at time when parents dragged their kids along to watch their own movies rather than chapperone their kids to the latest johnny depp fiasco.  well, there's just too much money to be made from film these days and most adults, if they like a film, they might watch it twice but kids between the ages of 8 and 14 are more likely to see a film ten times.  your kathy hales are animee creatures, pocchontas fixit,  half-human (term for that, ghost in the machine) in-human avatars that synch with your notions of the universe, your obessions with social media and angry birds.  in my mind  i've given kathy hale a personal history, risen her from the elephant graveyard of 70s cable and placed her on par with the greats of street photograpy.  like martha, i have to remind myself in polite company that kathy hale does not exist, did not exist—is the figment of latch key child's imagination—
but in my mind she reigns supreme, up there with bresson, arbus and — ansel adams...i don't know, not the real ansel admas, i'm not particularly obessesed with landscapes, but you know, the iconic figure, the poster child.  i even go as far to categorize her ouvre fixit series:  the greenwhich village years, upstate wonder bread, eva braun and the dissimulation fixit of times square.  as for her style, i have her running with wolves, with a kind of amazonian femenine insciousance fixit, a street style more remeniscent of winogrand and vivian maier but less overtly artsy, more photojournalistic, more topical, more relevant.  i also have her with a nikon f of course.  there is just something too romantic about a rangefinder, to gentlemanly, too non-commital.  there is a picture i like...david hemming in the park with the legendary nikon f, that big slr 50mm lens soaking up the light.  i see kathy hale in this photo, trolling in the park for some pedophile, cradling her nikon with her left hand, steading the body wide open with some preposterously slow shutter speed.

a word about rangefinders versus slrs or single lens reflex cameras;  rangefinders are the stuff of leisure, fodder for disinherited second sons lamenting their fate and cruizing the outbacks of harlem.  rangefinders are those cameras you see hanging around the necks of well-healed victorians strolling up fifth avenue fixit, with vintage leather straps and voigtlander light meters fixit.  they are slim, sleek and retro looking, james bond styling with little shiny buttons that look mysterious and inviting.  they are almost exclusively leicas, little precision fixit german works of art that have very few moving parts, no batteries and last for decades, half milleniums.  slrs or single lens reflex cameras were perfected by the japanese in the late fifties, though not invented of course.  they imploy a through-the-lens focusing system that allows precise composition by placing a mirror in front of the film which reflects light from the lens up to another mirror in a prisim or viewfinder.  in essense, with slrs, what you see is what you get.  not so with rangerfinders.  they use a viewfinder off to the side of the lens.  they use an ingenious though less than perfect light patch which can be used to focus with fairly decent accuracy.  slrs are bigger cameras.  they have bigger lenses which must be placed slightly further away from the film plane so as not to interfear with the mirror which must be flipped up to allow light to reach the film (or in the case of digital cameras, the sensor).  this design makes the images of an slr camera slightly less sharp than a rangefinder.  also, the mirrors of slrs move at lightening fast speeds which can cause blurring at slower shutter speeds, even with the use of a tripod.

but there are some serious focus issues with the rangefinder, especially at longer focal lengths, telephoto etc.  some of these issues can be resolved with special viewfinders but in the field, it's a bit akin to asking a pap to shoot jeffery daumer emerging from a jailhouse and then handing him a 20 X 24 poloroid camera.  if you don't get the message, just google the camera and all will be revealed.

i'm not knocking rangefinders...really, i'm not.  i own three myself;  a leica m3, an m6 and of course the leica m9, all of which can utilize the same brilliant leica glass.  i am on occassion that wandering victorian gentleman wielding an aged leather camera strap persusing the back streets of north hollywood...  here's the official line and you would do well to memorize it...