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...                                 

No comments:

Post a Comment