A walk in the Fog

Every now and then, I Google myself to see what comes up. There are always surprises. A few days ago, I stumbled on a site that referenced an article I had written years ago regarding the difference between photographs that are taken, and those that are made. What I had said was there is a distinct difference between the two, but whoever had written this blog misinterpreted what I had really meant. In short, what I was discussing was that some photographers simply take a picture and print it as is, without any manipulation whatsoever. I thought that photographs in this category were dull and really did not have anything to say except this is what I saw”. I mentioned that I preferred photographs that are made—meaning that in order to be interesting, the photographer (or printer) should enhance these images to illustrate what the photographer really felt when he/she took the picture. The writer was under the impression that what I was saying was that photographs that are “made” were heavily manipulated via Photoshop to show something that had not really existed. What I had really meant was that being an old photographer who had learned my skills in the darkroom for 40 years, the acts of dodging and burning in were well-stuck in my genes and therefore part of my images. Most young photographers today simply do not understand this. In my photographs, I dodge, burn-in and adjust the color the same way photographers have always printed or shown their work. I don’t put things in that were not originally there, I hate HDR, and I never re-arange backgrounds to create a flakes image. I only wish to show what I feel when i see these things. In my opinion, what I see is of little interest to anybody. Its just not my style—except for the image above. Every now and then…

The original RAW file is actually quite dull and lifeless. It was taken from a French chateau one year while I was on holiday, and it never struck me as interesting. So one day—one rainy day when I had little to do but putz around on my computer, I tried enhancing it. I do not even remember what I did to make it this way but I liked it. Given the fact that it is heavily manipulated, I would never really show it alongside my regular work but somewhere in my hard drive, there is a collection of these images—mostly landscapes. All I really did do was fool around with the color a bit, not a real travesty, and add some fog. It really a false image as a photograph but I like it just the same.

4_figures_hollywoodbeach

I look at a lot of photographs these days. I cannot help it because the web is saturated with photography—both good and bad. Sometimes you see an image and like it immediately—it just sucks you in. Other times you look at a photo, and you are puzzled—you just cannot connect with what the photographer is trying to say, that is until you read the paragraph(s) below which explain it all and you go “oh ya” and that is it. It is more intellectual than passionate. Personally, I am not fond of those photographs because if the purpose has to be explained, that is another step which separates the photographer and the viewer. Appreciation in my mind should be immediate and that is all there is to it.

You may either like or dislike the photograph above. No explanation is needed. In my mind, I want the viewer to either like it or not immediately—sans statement. Sometimes I can comment on how the picture was made, or why it was made, but what it is about is solely at the discretion of the viewer. I want the viewer to make up their own story because in my mind, that is what photography is about.

 

art_dealers

Art Basel Miami is a trip. First of all it is huge—beyond huge, covering most of the floor space of the Miami Beach Convention Center. Dealers come from all over for this 4-day orgy of “wretched excess”. For the dealers it is the place where thy come to meet collectors, sell their art , and network with each other. For the public, it is a peep show of bad art, bad fashion, and bad manners. Its where everybody comes to show off. The dealers have no interest in this. For the most part they sit on severe ill-designed chairs dressed in black suits with excessively shortened jackets, staring at their iBooks. The woman dealers are dressed the same except they are shapely with blond hair and I think their role is to reel in the male collectors but I am not sure. For all they care, they could be sitting in an empty room. When a colleague, or a known collector shows up, they come alive and the sucking and stroking begin.

As I have previously mentioned, 95% of it is dreck, 4.5% is Eh!… and the rest is very good. There are always interesting pieces to be seen but you have to stumble through an endless throng of  “the public”, artists and near artists, filthy rich people (who are probably actually looking for something to buy) and young people who are dressed up as artists (or so they think) because they are outfitted in outlandish costumes, bad hair and other oddities that will get you noticed. There was even an old couple (I think they were aging lesbians, however they could have been men) dressed as women in matching costumes, There was endless plastic jewelry covering most of their bodies. They were bald, and covered in pasty make-up. Very exciting.

This photograph is of a few dealers in conference. Who knows what was going on. A deal gone bad, a check gone bad, a prospective client gone dark?

Sometimes pictures just look good together. Two days, two places, two thoughts, made two photographs. One day (today), one thought… and it comes together. interesting. Once upon a time about a year or two ago, I was speaking to this curator at a portfolio review and he opened up a bit and confessed how he just loved looking at photographs. It was a very honest sincere statement, and refreshingly so un-academic. Looking is everything and when one looks enough, one can see more than what is apparent after a quick glance.

I have no idea where or when the photograph on the right was made. The one on the left was last year in Salzburg. They are totally unconnected except in my head. Its nice to travel that way.

Lately, I have been returning to black and white. There is just something about it that turns me on. Years ago when I shot film, that’s all I used but with digital, suddenly things began to change. When I had total control over color, it seemed more interesting but alas there might be room for both. This image actually looks boring and lifeless in color but I visualized it in B&W and it has a bit more life to it. Lately I have been going over other images and have reached the same conclusions—that is that some images are just better in black and white. THis image is from one of my favorite haunts which is Hollywood Beach, FL. THis is the Diana Motel where you can still get a “room” with an ocean view for under $100/night.

 

I wonder what’s next. A return to film perhaps?

I always like cameras and I suppose I always will. It has been like that since I was a kid when I walked into NDG photo on Girouard and Sherbrooke in Montreal sometime around 1958. There was a British guy called Terry, who had a large handlebar moustache, always wore a green turtleneck knit sweater and his specialty was the glass case at the end of the sales counter. It contained a red felt mat on which was printed the Leica logo in white. On top of it was a Leica M3 body, a IIIG body and two or three lenses. Since I was a 15 year old kid, Terry would never give me the time of day, but every time I wandered in to buy one of those Kodak paper developing kits, I hoped he would notice me, take pity and let me fondle one but it never happened.

At this point, I could have gone two ways. I could have ended up as one of those guys who collect Leicas and have every model’s serial number memorized, was obsessed about whether the Summilux 35/1.4 was better than the Summicron35/2.0 in the corners at f 8, and worried about the grade of black paint that Leica used on all versions prior to serial number 280xxx and shit like that. Or, I could have been a guy who just took photographs. Fortunately, I chose the latter.

In spite of being ignored by Terry for those years, I had always wanted to own a Leica, but circumstances (lack of funds) always thwarted me. So those early years were always compromises. My first camera was a Konica IIIA which was a non-interchangable lens 35mm camera. It had been recommended to me by s photographer by the name of Saul Frankel who had a studio next to my father’s men’s store on Ste. Catherine Street. He was a nice guy who went out of his way to arrange a deal with one of his suppliers so I got it at a good price (I think around $75.00), used it for a few years until my brother lent it to one of his friends and I never saw it again. My next camera was an Asahi Pentax (the original model). It had interchangable lenses, and by some fluke, I did eventually get a 28mm wide angle for it and my fate was sealed. I was headed down a dark lonely path—one for which there was no return.

Sometime around 1971, the Canon F1 was introduced and I wanted one but alas, the lack of funds was a factor and I had to settle on a Canon FTb. I knew it was a stopgap move and eventually I did get one and as I got older, I seemed to end up with the cameras I wanted. A list follows. —all 24 of em. (I usually never owned more than a few at a time—always trading up or using older models to finance newer ones. If I would have kept them all, my wife would have divorced me ages ago.)

  1. 1971 Canon FTb, sold 1975
  2. 1975 Canon F1, sold 1982
  3. 1977 Canon AE1,  sold 1982
  4. 1982 Nikon F3, stolen 1986
  5. 1986 Nikon F3,  stolen 1987
  6. 1987 Nikon F3,  sold 1996
  7. 1987 Nikon FA,  sold 1996
  8. 1996 Nikon N90,  sold 1999
  9. 1998 Hassleblad Xpan, sold 2004
  10. 2000 Contax G2, sold 2002
  11. 2001 Contax G2,  sold 2002
  12. 2001 Contax  TVSIII, gave to my daughter 2005
  13. 2001 Leica M3 Finally! ,sold 2003
  14. 2002 Leica M6, sold 2005
  15. 2002 Leica M7, sold 2005
  16. 2003 Leica M7,  sold 2005
  17. 2005 Canon D30,  sold 2008
  18. 2006 Canon 5D, sold 2009
  19. 2006 Panasonic Lumix LX2, gave to Sam
  20. 2007 Canon G9,  sold 2009
  21. 2008 Canon 5D II, sold 2009
  22. 2009 Olympus EP-1,  sold 2009
  23. 2009 Leica M9
  24. 2010 Panasonic GF-1

It took me 45 years to get my first Leica and I thought that would be my last camera. Then came digital and I had to start over again. I did not think Leica would ever go there but technology has a funny way of fucking with you. Now the technology allows manufacturers to turn out a new model every year and it is always significantly better than the previous one. Thankfully Leicas are turned out far more slowly so I can take a break. Even I agree that this is absolutely ridiculous. (By the way, I think that I am getting better. My worst year was in 2002 when I owned concurrently the three Contax’s, the Xpan and two Leicas.)

Since 1996 (Nikon N90) I have always bought my cameras online but I wish I didn’t have to. It would have been nice going into a store, fondling the various cameras and listening to the sales schtick by a guy like Terry before deciding, but they just don’t do that anymore.

Young Boy in Skateboard Park

I have always thought of America as a wonderful unique country. Others sometimes see us as boorish, aggressive, avaricious and crass. That’s fine with me because we sometimes some of us are, and as usual, most of us are not. But things are slowly changing—for the worse. We are slowly transforming ourselves into something far worse than that for which we are known—something far scarier. We are slowly becoming a nation of schmucks— fearful, politically correct, petty schmucks. Its not the commies, or the Nazis, or international Jewish conspiracy that is doing us in. No, its far worse than that. Its the lawyers who make money telling us how to behave, the fundamentalists who think they know how we should behave,  and the rest of us who are quite content being told how to behave. Since those who appoint themselves as the “leaders” are essentially hipocrites, it a pretty bad situation all around.

The picture above is of a young kid in a skateboard park in West Palm Beach. I was hanging around looking for pictures to take in the park  but except for a bunch of hispanics playing soccer there was not much happening. I walked by the skateboard park and this kid yells out

“Hey mister, take my picture.”

So I do. In a few moments his buddies all show up and are posing for me behind the chain link fence that separates them from the world. I thought it might be a good idea and enter the skateboard park and take more pictures without the chain link fence so I tell them:

“Hang on kids, I’m coming in.”

I walk through the building/entrance and a young girl says to me.

“Excuse me sir. Where are you going?”

“Inside to take some pictures.” I say

“You are not allowed”

” Why”

“Only parents can take pictures of their kids. Strangers are not permitted to, because some of the parents might object.”

“How do you know this?”

“Its city policy” (This is a code word for lawyers fucking things up.)

” I just want to take their picture for christ’s sake. I don’t want to murder them.”

” Please leave.”

And that was that. Another public place closed to photographers. My list of “verboten” places which includes stores, malls, museums, and gambling casinos has now branched out to kids in parks. We have to protect them from perverts. The problem is when dealing with these legal schmucks is that they are always looking under the wrong rock. My new neighbor, a few doors away is an ex-congressman who had to resign because he was allegedly chasing the page boys in Congress. They would have let him in to “scout out the territory—right? If I had a bible in my hand instead of a camera and I wanted to save the poor kid’s soul  (but in truth, was up to no good) they would have helped me through the gate. But a photographer, naw he is a fucking pervert!

Years ago when I was a twelve-year old I was “molested”. It happened in downtown Montreal. Sometimes I would take the 3A streetcar downtown and hang out, check out the goods at Dapper Dan, and sometimes if I had any change I would go to the Woolworth counter on Ste. Catherine street and have a hamburger and coke. One day as I left the counter an old man in a grey suit rubs up against me and sticks a folded newspaper in my crotch. I look up at him and he smiles at me and shoves the newspaper further up my crotch.

“Fuck off.” I say

He walks away and my ‘dark secret” is imbedded in me forever. I never thought that I needed counseling (although my ex-wife did) and I really don’t think I was scarred for life. It was just part of growing up. My parents had told me to avoid strangers and I followed their advice. A simple fuck off would always suffice. I am not saying that there is no evil in this world—their certainly is. Some people are pure rotten filth and they have always been there. But no amount of laws, policies, lawyers, political bullshit etc. will ever reduce that. All they do is target the wrong people. Its no different than airline security personal selecting 85 year old widows for increased security because they have this stupid policy about profiling.

There is no substitute for common sense.

On the other hand, perhaps I should switch to landscape photography. But then again some lawyer will find a reason to forbid it.