Friday, July 31, 2009

If You See the Messiah Coming Cross the Street

I completed my service on Jury Duty today and justice was served. Sort of. My camera was confiscated the first day upon entering the building but you can't blame a juror for trying. I did manage to pop off a few, not terribly interesting, snaps later with my phone. None of them were made in the courtroom during proceedings. They would have put my ass in stir if they caught me making pictures there. The criminal trial lasted 5 days. It involved a man, ironically a crime reporter, who was mugged at gunpoint by two teenagers 4 years ago. His civil rights were violated. Unfortunately for him there were no other witnesses and no physical evidence. The arresting officer was away much of the last four years while serving in Iraq and the trial was held up until last week. Not only was I fascinated and engaged from the get go but I also earned myself a cool 200 bucks! I saw the proceedings as a kind of verbal chess match confined by a large but narrow set of rules played out on various chess boards simultaneously. Another thing I was not surprised by, but was fascinated to watch play out, was that, aside from the judge, everyone in the court room lies and or misleads. Everyone. The victim of the crime, the "alleged" perpetrator, the prosecutor, the defense and even some of the jurists. Testimony by the complainant is rehearsed, altered and exaggerated with the help of the Prosecutor. The defense erects a series of smoke screens and obfuscation designed to confuse, blunt and raise doubts. Jurists who are instructed to not be influenced by events outside of the proceedings are. In the end we had little to no evidence to consider and had to decide whether the victim's choosing of the defendant from a line up, 10 months after the crime, was enough evidence alone to convict. While I personally believe that the defendant was most likely guilty I had to, based on the rules of the game and what little was presented in court, agree with my fellow jurors that there was too much reasonable doubt to apply a guilty verdict. And so Messiah, yes that was the defendant's real name, walked out a free and innocent man in the eyes of the law.

Jury Waiting Room

Perp Walk. But not "the" perp in question.

Legal Water

A Hall of Justice

View From The Jury Room

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Jury In a Hurry

Lewis Payne, "Lincoln Conspirator" By Alexander Gardner, 1865

I was recently called to serve on a jury in criminal court. What I thought might be a quick in and out endeavor has turned into a relatively lengthy and complicated affair. But I've already said too much. Really. The judge has locked me and my 11 closest new friends in a room, taken away our phones and instructed us to not discuss the case in any fashion. So I wont. Until we reach a verdict. Whenever that is.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Fix Your Man Tits

and a few other random pictures from the past weekend.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Monday, July 27, 2009

Frances' Kitchen

We had an excellent dinner Sunday afternoon at Michelle's cousin house in Brooklyn. The house is a great, old house in Midwood that Frances and her brother were born and raised in more than 70 years ago. The greatest thing about the house, aside from the grand, old, Oak tree that occupies the back, is the fantastic, great, green kitchen that occupies the back of the second floor. Great, not only because of the wonderful meals that have been prepared there, but great because it looks so damn good.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Pushing Daisies

Robert Frank, Tulip, Paris, 1950

If you have 26 minutes, and I know you do, check out the classic "Pull My Daisy." Even if you've seen it 10 times and had it spoon fed to you while in art school you owe your self the treat. Although the film is most closely associated with Robert Frank it's really the sound of Kerouac's voice and his free form narration that steals the show and makes the film worthwhile. So even if you don't want to watch the subtitled, crappy quality video clip go ahead and have a listen. Give it some time to load. It's a biggin!

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Participating In Sports Is Healthy

I discovered these 3 objects on the floor of the dugout of a little league field and photographed them exactly as I found them. To be fair, this field is in a large city park, but still, I cant get the image out of my head of the visiting "team" that must have recently vacated the dug out. Miraculously they also left behind a team photo which I've posted below!

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

David Lynch Now Praises Famous Men

Barry, from David Lynch's Interview Project

Allie Mae Burroughs by Walker Evans, from Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, 1936, published in 1941

If you haven't seen any of the interviews from David Lynch's 'Interview Project' then you owe it to yourself to check them out. Lee Siegel, writing for 'The Daily Beast' opines, a bit hysterically, that they are "the most affecting instances of documentary journalism since Let Us Now Praise Famous Men." For the most part the interviews are presented in a very straight forward and direct manner that is similar to that of the great Walker Evans and James Agee project. In fact, it comes as a bit of a surprise at first glance that the stories we hear are not pickled and packed in the same dramatic brine and cinematic gymnastics that you associate with David Lynch. But on second glance they are! While the subjects occupy a world more like the characters in Lynch's 1999 The Straight Story it wouldn't be difficult to imagine them playing many of the more peripheral roles in Blue Velvet or Twin Peaks. What distinguishes these lives from the lives of Lynch's fictional characters is the simple truth that these are lives that are brimmimg with a drama that is far more crushing than anything Wild at Heart or Mullholland Drive could conceive of or had to offer. They confirm Thoreau's over quoted passage that "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation...." Leave it to Lynch to find those whose lives are perhaps a wee bit quieter and a tad more desperate than most. These are lives of "regular" people who were found in the small, non coastal, pockets of America that seem to have been discarded by the general economy, culture and popular imagination some time ago. These are subjects whose dreams are deffered, unrealized, and in some cases and saddest of all, never even conceived of.

You can see the interviews at: INTERVIEW PROJECT

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Day of the Dentist

Waiting my turn. Having an Alice in Wonderland moment.

Droopy hoses.

The grape flavored, latex glove of the cleaning dominatrix. Bring it!

My view.

No cavities!

I wipe the tears from my eyes.

I'm feeling handsome.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Taking It To the Street...

and the subway

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Seeing Pink Elephants

I'm not sure why but I keep stumbling across these images online. There's something both beautiful and "gross" about them and I love that a picture can be both at once.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Great Debate

Some questions concerning photography are too great to go unanswered. Please weigh-in. Dog, Rabbitt or Calf ?

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Doing the Dishes. A Chat With Laura Letinsky

Laura Letinsky, Untitled, #92 (from the I Did not Remember I Had Forgotten series), 2004

ME: Was there one photograph or photographer who was instrumental in exciting/inciting you to start to make pictures?

LAURA: "When I was about 18 I fell in love with Diane Arbus' work. I was first wowed by the subjects, their vulnerability and tentativeness that at first I understood as so very ordinary, but her "picturing" made extraordinary. Later, I realized what she did was not only having to do with a selection of subject, but intrinsically, how she made the pictures. That is, she was sophisticated in not only her choice of subject but moreover, her use of form."

Diane Arbus

ME: Could you talk a little bit about how you started your 'Morning, and Melancholia' series and the process of doing this body of work.

LAURA: "The still life work grew out of a conglomeration of conceptual, artistic, and everyday stuff. I had long been fascinated by the 17th century Dutch and Flemish still life painters, curious about their relationship to the more southern Italian tradition in which still life does not figure large. I was also intrigued by the historical and social conditions of still life such that it becomes important during particular periods, then seems to go underground, becoming irrelevant to concerns of the day. So, for example, still life is an exceptionally popular genre in 17th century northern Europe, then not really again until the modernists use it's "content-less-ness" as the basis to experiment with form. Of course the still life is never without content, rather, it's very matter of factness belies its important to issues of (as Norman Bryson writes in Looking at the Overlooked) creaturality, domesticity, intimacy, gender, and so on. It was around 1997, with Bryson's strong influence, that I transitioned from the photographs of couples in intimate interiors to the still life. Along with Svetlana Alpers, and others, he gave me an understanding of the still-life's social and historical context, and most importantly, why this mode of representation has currency in these particular moments. I began to see a corollary between the early global mercantile capitalism of that place and our own post-global, post-capitalist world in which objects, things, are signs of need and want, and their depiction through visual media is vital to communicate, sheesh, generate this desire. Their need for an image making technology that showed everything transparently, i.e. sort of like how we see, as well as the need to widely disseminate images, this called for realistic depictions that demanded photography's invention (here I have to credit Walter Benjamin and Joel Snyder). Photography is less an invention and more a realization about a set of ideas and ideas of how to picture and therefor understand, the world."

Laura Letinsky

Wolfgang Heimbach, Woman Looking at a Table, 1660-70

"For me, I wanted to use the photograph to talk about this "post" moment, a moment that of course doesn't feel that way as we live it, but yet by using the photograph, a medium that is, as Barthes describes, always about "that is dead, and that is going to die", I felt I couldn't help but engage this idea of the aftermath - of capitalism, culture, need, want.... and then perhaps it's just as easy to say that this melancholic attitude is just my nature. It also felt really important to use photography, rather than painting to make this work so as to address how we know our world, that is, the pedagogy of photographic media from billboards to music videos to Wolfgang Tillmans and so on. I use photography though to upset or at least slow down how we know what we are looking at; by utilzing the shifting focal plane of the large format camera, as well as through the formal construction of my pictures, I want to mess with the viewer's sense of gravity, of certainty when they see a domestic scene. For me this has to do with the fragility and work of domesticity.

As the work has progressed, I've become more of a control freak and the pictures more obviously put together/artificial. When I first began I wanted a degree of naturalness but that has become less interesting to me and instead I'm pushing the formal construction of the pictures as well as the ickiness of the subject matter, working at home and in my studio to make 2 parallel but different sets of photographs, one in which the light blows out the space and becomes synonymous with the plane of the paper, and the other is darker, with limited light and color (sad sad sad but oh so beautiful, hopefully in a Nick Cave/ Will Oldam kind of way)."

Laura Letinsky

ME: What's your favorite place to see photographs? Why?

LAURA: "Depends on the photographs. So much work now is made especially for the gallery and museum context with a significant shift happening in the 90's as galleries moved into larger, more institutional like spaces, as well as (for photography especially) the technological ease of making large images. Photographs have currency in so many different realms, from beloved pictures of my kids that exist on my iphone to the seduction of print media on the sides of buses to those in museums and galleries i.e the art world. My favorite place to see pictures depends on the pictures. I like all of these venues, depending, and including !!!! books. This last, one of my favorite because of the intimacy of the interaction (okay, if I could, I'd prefer original prints but that's obviously an impediment for every/any one to varying degrees)"

ME: What contemporary photographers are you most interested in these days?

LAURA: "I've become more hermetic over the past few years, the product of having kids, a professorship at the University of Chicago, but also I get sustenance from places, activities, interests, things other than pictures. I read fair amount, as much as I can, mostly contemporary fiction, but also historical works, essays, New Yorker, poetry, and so on, as well as drawing from music, paintings, sculpture, fim, etc. I try to see as much as I can but time is limited and life is rich. Some artists who interest me include Marlene Dumas, Vija Clemins, David Schutter, Karen Reimer, Judy Legerwood, Tino Sehgal, Jalal Toufic, Jessica Stockholder, Rudolf Stingel, Gordan Matta Clark, Vitto Acconci,... an eclectic bunch to be sure."

Marlene Dumas, Babe

Karen Reimer

Rudolf Stingel

ME: Who do you think is one of the most under examined or underrated photographers? Someone whose work should be seen more often and in more places?

LAURA: "There's so much that I'm sure I'm missing but two photographers who I think about a lot these days include E.J. Bellocq and Roger Ballen. Bellocq worked at the turn of the the last century in New Orleans photographing prostitutes. It's reputed that he also made a decent living documenting ship's cargo. I've long been taken with his work, not that I'm even sure that what we are looking at is his in the sense that the images were discovered by Lee Friedlander in the 50's then printed and distributed as art as heralded by Szarkowski, Sontag and others. We see the full frame, likely not what Bellocq had intended, and the poigency of the subject and form, not to mention the wreaking of time on the negatives, all contribute to an abiding intensity for me.

I saw Roger Ballen's show in New York a few years ago and was really engged by their craziness. Some of the weirdness comes across as just that but in most of them, he manages to marry the peculiarity of the subjects to his description. His best photographs take my breath away. "

Roger Ballen, Mimicry, 2005

Roger Ballen, Shadow Chamber 4

ME: What over exhibited and over discussed photographer's work do you not care for or "get" ?

LAURA: "I'm not going to dish on artist's work I don't like but I will say that the longer I make pictures the less I get excited about. I'm interested in artist's work that changes the way I think about the world, that presents something to me such that I no longer see the world the same way. Artists who confirm what is already known, whose work shows something that I might see if I were standing in the camera's place, indifferent to formal and material presentation and choices, this work is not compelling to me. I recall an experience looking at one of my friend's work, Tanya Marcuse, who had photographed Greek and Roman statuary. I can't go to a museum and look at these objects anymore without seeing them as she showed to me. The same experience is had with so many others, from Andreas Gursky, Thomas Struth, William Eggleston, Cindy Sherman, Helen Levitt, and so on."

Thomas Struth

William Eggleston

Cindy Sherman

ME: If you could possess one, or a few, photographs from the history of the medium which one would it be and why?

LAURA: "Anything from Bellocq's "Storyville" portraits or Gary Winogrand."

E.J. Bellocq

Gary Winogrand

ME: If photography seized to exist and you had to choose another medium in which to express your self which medium would you choose?

LAURA: "Cooking."

ME: Photography, in all it's genres, is more popular than ever. For decades it fought to be valued as highly as all the other creative mediums. More schools are offering it as a subject of study. More galleries and museums are exhibiting photographs and more individuals are pursuing photography as a vocation. Do you have any concern that photography is perhaps becoming a victim of its own success? That the stunning volume of pictures being produced and consumed in all contexts has somehow demeaned the value of the medium and individual images?

LAURA: "I Don't think I ever thought there was anything intrisically worthwhile to photography per se. Rather, I understand it as one of an array of image making possibilities that carries with it specific and shifting meanings. True, to make a picture is relatively easy these days but to make anything that carries complicated and rich meaning, no matter what the medium, is always a challenge.

To say that there are a lot of images in the world is an understatement; to say that there are a few images that mean something (to me) is quite another. I don't care about the vast majority of photographic information that crosses my path because most of it isn't inteneded to have me care (more than making me want to have french fries or Balenciaga). Photography doesn't inherently mean anyting other than its photographic-ness. To use an analogy about food, there's a lot of food in our world but not a lot of it means more than caloric intake and momentary pleasure. For an experience that is lasting, there's got to be more, an engagement with the medium in the world in a way that resonates beyond the initial encounter. So no, I don't think photography's ubiquity has changed the way we think about the world. Photography shapes how we understand and know the world."

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