The Laugher

August 6, 2009

I've always loved the opening paragraph of Heinrich Böll's The Laugher.

"When someone asks me what business I am in, I am seized with embarrassment: I blush and stammer, I who am otherwise known as a man of poise. I envy people who can say: I am a bricklayer. I envy barbers, bookkeepers, and writers. All these professions speak for themselves. They need no lengthy explanation, while I am forced to reply to such questions: I am a laugher. Then I am always asked, "Is that how you make your living?" Truthfully I must say, "Yes." I actually do make a living at my laughing, and a good one, too. My laughing is - commercially speaking - much in demand. I am a good laugher, experienced. No one else laughs as well as I do. No one else has such command of the fine points of my art."

Greg Girard's Early Work

July 14, 2009

One of my favorite photography books of the last few years was Greg Girard's Phantom Shanghai. Girard, who is based in Shanghai, has recently updated his site with a set of knockout portfolios he collectively titled "Far East / Far West 73-86".

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"Far East / Far West 73-86" features sets of images taken before Girard was a professional photographer. Of the work he writes:

"From 1973-1986 I photographed the familiar and unfamiliar parts the city where I was born, Vancouver, and made my first visits to Asia - when it was still more commonly referred to as the Far East, eventually living in Tokyo and later in Hong Kong. These are the photographs of an amateur, unschooled except by early exposure to Popular Photography magazine and the novels of Graham Green, Peter Handke and Paul Bowles, and inspired by the imagery and stories of films of the 70s. "

What strikes me about these images is not that they are unschooled but that they are all so consistent, the product of someone with a keen cinematic vision... and that the photographs, whether they were made in Vancouver or Tokyo or Las Vegas, each hold something of Shanghai within. So perhaps Shanghai was beckoning Girard all along and these images are a kind of visualized déjà vu, pictures of a place he already knew, but had yet to experience...

How many more times will you watch the full moon rise?

July 12, 2009

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"Death is always on the way, but the fact that you don't know when it will arrive seems to take away from the finiteness of life. It's that terrible precision that we hate so much. But because we don't know, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that's so deeply a part of your being that you can't even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless."
— Paul Bowles The Sheltering Sky

In Which I Am a Giant

July 8, 2009

I've been keeping very long hours lately have been bone tired pretty much all the time.

My 4 year old to me tonight: Dad you look tired.

Me: Yeah.

Raul Andres: I could tell you a story so you could take a nap.

Me: I like that idea.

Raul Andres: Once upon a time there was a daddy who was a giant.

[I close my eyes.]

Raul Andres: You can't sleep yet. I have to get to the best part. The giant was you! Wouldn't it be so much fun to be a giant?

Me: Why would it be so much fun?

Raul Andres: Because if you are a big giant everything is the size of a toy. The whole world. That's the story.

Me: I like that story.

Raul Andres: You can sleep now, but not too long because we have to play hide and go seek. Ok dream you are a giant now.

Edgar Martins

July 8, 2009

There's quite a kerfuffle brewing about Edgar Martins photoshopping some an image for a story in the NYTimes.
Specifically he mirrored an image to create symmetry and then changed a few things in photoshop to cover his tracks.

This is a story because Martins states emphatically that he does not use photoshop (or other "darkroom manipulations") and because he apparently duped the Times (he should have labeled the picture an editorial illustration rather than editorial photojournalism). I find the whole thing amusing because there are many images Martin's portfolio that are obviously photoshopped using exactly the same technique.

This is easily provable on a suspect image simply by taking half the image, flipping it horizontally and layering it over the other side of the image with say 80% opacity... At that point it's obvious which parts of the image are flipped and which parts are photoshopped in.

Here are two more examples of his work that easily debunk his "no photoshop" proclamation:

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For the record, I like Martin's work, and I'm not anti-photoshop (and I'm certainly not anti-darkroom work) but I am anti-hypocrisy.

Nadav Kander

July 5, 2009

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I've known for a long time that Nadav Kander was a photographer of broad and varied talents but I don't think understood how broad or how varied until I sat down to go through his website thoroughly tonight. From his always sharp editorial work (Obama's People) to large scale art projects (Yangtze, the Long River), to small personal projects (The Parade) Nadav produces striking picture after striking picture. It is curious that his projects while internally consistent lack a signature style. I don't think I've ever seen a specific image and said, "Oh that must be by Nadav." He reminds me of those filmmakers of the classic era like Howard Hawks who could direct a stylish gangster picture followed by western followed by a sci-fi flick and get them all right. All this is a long winded way of saying, spend some time getting to know Nadav's work because even if you think you know it, there is probably much more you are unaware of.

Tessa's Bookshelf

July 4, 2009

I love it when a single dusty bookshelf can telegraph so much about a person, even if that person has been gone for years.

These are just a few of the books found found on the shelf of an English woman who led a colorful young life and lived out her last years in the Mallorcan hills:

Claret And the White Whines of Bordeaux - Healy
Hedgerow and Pond - Lodge
A Short History of the English Peoples - Green
Annuals in Color and Cultivation - Mensfield
The KING of the DARK CHAMBER - Tagore
In Search of England - Morton
A History of Classical Scholarship - Sandy's
Poetic Works - Scott
The Twyborn Affair - Wythe
Winnie the Pooh - Milne
I Saw it happen in NORWAY - Hambro
Far Eastern Agent - Moore
The English Kings - Fowler

Pause

June 30, 2009

Imagine how much more fun the iOS video camera would be if it had a pause button. In camera cuts!

Editions at 20x200

June 24, 2009

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We released 4 editions today from yours truly on 20x200... All are from my project Travels Without Maps. Many of you have asked for small affordable prints, and now they are yours for the taking.

Additionally, I've seriously revamped my portfolio site and have now made it easier to grab big prints there. I have several new projects waiting in the wings will be putting them online in the coming weeks, so stay tuned, things are afoot!

Hearts

June 23, 2009

I saw this bus the other day and it reminded me of something and I couldn't put my finger on it... was it a tattoo, something my wife drew in a letter, an old logo? I just couldn't place it...
hearts-nyc.jpg...and then tonight during a wander it struck me. A few years ago I spent 6 hours on the back of a bike decorated with those hearts:
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Mystery solved.

Your Secret Age

June 20, 2009

I believe most of us have a secret age separate from our actual age. It might be 4 or 8 or 62. If you want to know someone's secret age, watch them ride a bike.

I still enjoy reading a real newspaper...

June 13, 2009

I prefer my newspapers to be real things I can hold in my hands. Why?.. partially, so I can happen upon stories I would never read on the web (on the web I tend to self select stories I already know will hold my interest; in a real paper I read almost everything. Why? Because it's comprehensible. There is an end.)...

Anyway, I digress... Here are a few choice snippets from an article titled "An Independence Claim in Nicaragua" which I found the other day while reading the newspaper on the couch so you can read it here on the web...

Commercial sales of turtle meat, which has long been a delicacy here, is restricted in Nicaragua because of declining populations of endangered green sea turtles — one of many cultural clashes that the people in this remote corner of Nicaragua, who have eaten turtle for generations, say have propelled them to create their own country, which they have dubbed the Communitarian Nation of Mosquitia.

[snip]

Fed up, the separatists seized the region’s ruling party headquarters on April 19 and appointed Héctor Williams as their wihta tara, or great judge. Mr. Williams, a local religious leader whose thin black mustache stretches out toward his deep dimples, said the region suffered from a variety of woes — devastating hurricanes and rat plagues to a mysterious disease known as grisi siknis, which is marked by collective bouts of hysteria.

[snip]

The only weapons visible during a recent visit — before the weekend eviction — were slingshots, although the separatists said they were seeking financing to train and equip an army of 1,500.

“We’ll defend our natural resources,” vowed Guillermo Espinoza, the movement’s defense minister, who was known as Comandante Black Cat during the contra war. If no guns can be found, he said, the separatists will make weapons themselves.

Mike Sinclair

June 7, 2009

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I love photographers who see beauty in the mundane and then make you see what they see. Mike Sinclair is one of those photographers. I blogged one of his images 3 or 4 years ago and was pleased to come across his work again while helping judge the most recent Hey, Hot Shot! competition.

Requiem for Kashgar

June 3, 2009

Part of me doesn't believe I'll never be able to see Kashgar's old city again, but then again part of me doesn't believe a government would destroy old Beijing, and yet it's gone.

Read the New York Times story on the plan to flatten Kashgar's old city and be sure to check out the audio slideshow. The pictures below are mine.

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John Thomson

May 12, 2009

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Don't know if I have many readers left in Beijing, but if so, be sure to head over to the Beijing World Art Museum to check out an exhibition of work by Scottish photographer John Thomson, one of those great intrepid 19th century traveling photographers. Many of the 150+ images in the exhibition have never been shown before... Go if only to see pictures of old Beijing. Wish I could go see the show in person or at least look at more images online.

More Images: Portfolio 1, Portfolio 2, and many more hidden out there on google image search.

Mother's Day

May 10, 2009

My wife was out of town this mother's day. For her card I asked my kids to close their eyes and tell me why they love their mom. As she was on their mind, the results I think were especially true. Here are the unedited results:


Raul Andres - Age 4

Happy Mother's Day.

Dear Mom,

I love you to not wear clothes. You are like a... like a... lamp. You make me feel happy.

I want you to go in the milk and the salt.

Love Raul Andres

Now go in the sugar.

Gabriel - Age 2

Dear Mommy,

Yes. Yes. Yes. I love mommy. I love mommy, one, two, three, four, twelve!
I eat her all up.
Delicious.

Me Gabriel

Rena Effendi

May 8, 2009

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The photographer collective still-dancing highlighted the work of Azerbaijani photographer Rena Effendi today. Effendi's most compelling work takes us into places most of us would have no access to, showing us the facade presented to the outside world, and then digging deeper and breaking down stereotypes and mythology in the process. As a jumping off point check out her portfolios House of Happiness and Twenty-something in Tehran, you won't be disappointed.

Philippe Halsman on jumping

May 5, 2009

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This is a lightly edited passage from Philippe Halsman's classic Jump Book which was published in 1959 and dedicated "To my subjects who defied gravity".

Then came the crisis which changed everything. I was commissioned by the Ford Company to photograph for its fiftieth birthday, the entire Ford family...

There was the charming matriarch of one of the great American families, and suddenly, like a pang, I felt the burning desire to photograph her jumping.

'Are you going mad, Halsman?' I asked myself. "Will you propose that she jump—a grandmother and an owner of innumerable millions of dollars?"

I asked Mrs. Edsel Ford, "May I take a picture of you jumping?"

I have never seen an expression of greater astonishment. "You want me to jump with my high heels?" she asked incredulously.

I explained that it was not obligatory. Mrs. Edsel Ford asked her children to excuse her and went with me to the hall. She took her shoes off and jumped gracefully a couple of times. Suddenly I heard the voice of Mrs. Henry Ford behid me: "May I also jump for you, Philippe?"

A year and a half later I was telling René, my brother-in-law, that I already had a collection of sixty famous jumps and that I had not met with a refusal. René who is hopelessly French answered, "America is a young nation. Inside every American is an adolescent. But try to ask a Frenchman to jump. Il te rira ua nez - he will laugh into your nose!"

The following week I had to photograph a French writer, Romain Gary, for his book jacket. Gary jumped for me several times. His jumps were both romantic and heroic. It looked as though, in mid-air he was offering his chest to enemy bullets. After the sixth jump I closed my camera. Gary asked, "May I please jump once more? I don't think I have expressed myself completely."

Vaguely Related: Bounce

Mountains and Valleys

May 4, 2009

There's a Korean saying describing sleeping arrangements for young families that goes, "the parents should be the mountains, and the children are the valley between." While the words probably sound better in Korean I like the imagery. As a kid I remember that feeling of being nestled between my parents or my grandparents as the safest most secure of hideouts. I also literally remember the adults as mountains—huge and immovable. I remember studying their arms, legs, and torsos noting patterns of freckles and wear, climbing over and around them, and even of tracing the whirls of their fingerprints. I would put my head to their chests to listen to the murmur and rumble of their internal machinery, and I would survey their slack sleeping faces inch by inch. More than once I had the thought that I should I ever get lost in the dark I could find them by scent alone. So when I wake up from a nap and sense my two year old an inch away from my face, or gently pulling at my earlobes, or studying my toes, I leave my eyes closed and play possum. I want him to make a good map.

William Lamson's Automatic

April 20, 2009

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William Lamson has returned from South America where he produced a compelling and fun new body of work titled Automatic with subsections titled Sea Drawings, Molino Drawings, Kite Drawings, Tree Drawings, etc... Beautiful visuals touched by whimsy and grounded by serious purpose have come to define Lamson's art. I've found myself always looking forward to what's next and being pleasantly surprised with each new project...

Abuelito's Ears

April 18, 2009

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My son Gabriel has my grandfather's ears. I love them so.

Free Music Archive

April 15, 2009

One of my favorite radio stations, WFMU, has created a new site called The Free Music Archive devoted to posting curated selections of free (legal!) recordings. The site is brand new, but it looks to be a good way to discover new music. In just a few minutes on the site I found myself downloading many tracks to itunes discovering new music (Hi Edith Frost, I'm a fan now), older music (A few rare Daniel Johnston tracks) and really old music ( Sophie Tucker). I do worry that the site will scale given it's interface but I imagine that it will improve and grow over time. It's off to a good start and WFMU's archive is deep; it's worth checking out...

Michael Lundgren

April 15, 2009

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I'm excited we're releasing 2 prints (not the image above) by Michael Lundgren on 20x200 this afternoon (the prints can be found here and here). Michael is a photographer who works in the grand tradition of American landscape photographers who roamed the West in the late 19th and early 20th centry... He writes of his work:

I once read that "the twilight is the crack between the worlds." When dusk comes, a grayclarity permeates the air. It is a dark that one can see into. As Emmet Gowin once said, it is here that one can "participate in the game of feeling the unknown."

That's what I like so much about Lundgren's work... he works in the shadows and in those in-between places...

His recent book Michael Lundgren: Transfigurations strikes me as an instant classic.

Easter 1977

April 12, 2009

From one of my old journals:

April 10, 1977, Easter Woke up and read Encyclopedia Brown. Had to go to church. The egg hunt was fun, but I don't like eggs. Everyone ate eggs except me. Played kickball in our church clothes at Jeff's house. His mom wouldn't let us play football. We watched the movie Treasure Island. It was dull except for the black spot. Jeff's mom gave us eggs again! We went home and put on normal clothes and I played in the woods and lit firecrackers with Bill. Bill is a firecracker nut. We blew up some eggs. It was fun. No eggs tomorrow!

Benedikt Partenheimer

April 11, 2009

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Benedikt Partenheimer was one of the winners of the Hearst 8x10 Biennial. His winning entry was a series of portraits of famous artists and photographers taken from behind them as they were (presumably) engaged in the act of looking/contemplation. While many fo the artists are surely posing, the series still works.. and it's interesting how the viewer's relationship to the series shifts after reading the titles of the pieces. Take a look at the pictures above and note youfrresponse to them without knowing the subjects (one of them should be known to all photography nerds)... then click through to Partenheimer's site and find their names...

Overheard less than an hour after landing in San Francisco

April 3, 2009

Girl 1: My friend dated a guy who renamed himself Paradox.

Girl 2: That’s pretty bad, but maybe it was his worst flaw, maybe Paradox was paradoxically a pretty cool guy.

Girl 3: A guy I know from college renamed himself Email. I hung out with him at my college reunion.

Girl 2: Did you laugh at him?

Girl 3: Well I wouldn’t have recommended it but it was the 90’s and seemed kinda cool at the time. Now everyone knows him as Email. If your name is Email everyone is going to remember you. I think he likes that.

Feeling fuzzy

April 1, 2009

.ƃuol ʎɐp llɐ sɯǝlqoɹd pɹıǝʍ ƃuıʌɐɥ uǝǝq sɐɥ ɹoʇıuoɯ ʎɯ


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