Friday, January 30, 2009

Maira Kalman's hallelujah pictures

From "And the pursuit of happiness," Maira Kalman

The voices of hope & exaltation continue to wash over us. Ten days after President Obama's inauguration, they have not yet curdled with cynicism. I came upon this online slideshow of Inauguration images by artist/illustrator/designer Maira Kalman & found myself again thrilling to the possibility that -- after serving the puny devils of arrogance & greed for so long -- we are once again -- one hopes for a while -- turning to our better angels.

Don't miss these. They are sublime. This woman should illustrate Whitman's "Leaves of Grass."

In the same issue of the Times.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Zooming into history

"The Inauguration of President Obama," David Bergman

OK, OK, he's inaugurated already, so why am I showing you this corny low rez postcard? Because I can't upload the 59,783 X 24,658 pixels (1,474 megapixel) Gigapan file it comes from. After it has been stitched together by software, the final TIF of this image is over 2 GB. You really must see this.

Use the controls to see if you can find Clarence Thomas snoozing behind the newly sworn-in President. Or (harder) find Yo Yo Ma taking a photo with his iPhone. For those of you who want the tech explanation, it's here on photographer David Bergman's blog (my favorite fact -- this pic was made with a Canon G10).

I'm way too tired to write tonight about the implications -- pro & con -- of such technology. Or for that matter, about the artistic possibilities. But, remembering the magisterial slow pans Ken Burns did over incredibly detailed prints of cast-of-thousands' Civil War scenes made from large-format glass negatives exposed by Matthew Brady and others, I did come up with the shot below of Abraham Lincoln's 2nd inaugural address by way of comparison. I don't doubt there were better photos made of that scene, but still...

"Lincoln's second inaugural," Photographer unknown

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Deep in the season

"Snowy backyard," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

I like taking pictures from exactly the same vantage point in different seasons. This is last week from my bedroom window in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Here's the same shot 2 1/2 months ago.

And here's another snow shot from the same window of my next door neighbors' yard.

"Closed for the season," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Brooklyn Jesus

"Brooklyn Jesus," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

Going through old pictures. I remember each picture, including the bad ones -- exactly where I was when I took it, what kind of light was there, what I was feeling.

This is not true of any other aspect of my life.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Change -- keeps coming

"Sam Cooke, Barack Obama," unknown photographers

If you liked the Bettye LaVette-BonJovi version of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna' Come" that I pointed to yesterday, you'll love this post. A (typically) fanatical fan of my friend Doug Schulkind's longtime WFMU radio show, Give the Drummer Some, told me about the special show he did last election day. To generate mojo for Barack Obama's eventual landslide victory, Doug filled the hour-long slot with 14 versions of Cooke's masterpiece (including the original).

You can hear the entire show from the WFMU archives here or by clicking on each individual song here (who do you want to hear 1st: Aretha Franklin or The Gits?).

Also check out Doug's funny, political, inventively visual blog on music & more , "Beware of the Blog."

Monday, January 19, 2009


Editor's note: Just found out the link embedded above doesn't work cause HBO yelled copyright.
Try this link: . Thanks, K.

Bettye LaVette & Bon Jovi sang Sam Cooke's great "A Change is Gonna Come" at yesterday's pre-inaugural "We Are One" concert at the Lincoln Memorial. It doesn't get any better than this (in the video note the slight alteration of the lyrics' final line).

Here are Sam Cooke's words as he wrote them:

A Change is Gonna Come

I was born by the river in a little tent
And just like that river i've been running ever since
It's been a long time coming
But i know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will

It's been too hard living, but i'm afraid to die
Cos i don't know what's out there beyond the sky
It's been a long, a long time coming
But i know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will

And then i go to see my brother
And i ask him to help me please
And he just winds up knockin' me
Back down on my knees

There were times when i thought i couldn't last for long
But now i think i'm able to carry on
It's been a long, been a long time coming
But i know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Wish I had a river...

"Dutch skaters on frozens canals in Kinderdjik. After more than a week of cold, an estimated 2.3 million skaters, out of a population of 16 million, have taken to the Netherlands frozen canals and lakes," Michael Kooren, All rights reserved.

"I wish I had a river
I could skate away on
I wish I had a river so long
I would teach my feet to fly
Oh I wish I had a river
I could skate away on..."

Excerpted from the song "River" by Joni Mitchell


"Subway reader, F train," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

"Reader in winter, Coney Island," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

No new work lately. Finding new work in old work.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Babies don't hate anybody

"Palestinian father with his dead children," Mahmud Harns, All rights reserved

"Israeli mother shielding her child from rocket attack," Patrick Baz, All rights reserved

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

"Emerging photographer": Is that code for "under 35"?

"Old guy thinks he's still 'emerging'," portrait of TC by Adam Pantozzi, All rights reserved

A number of excellent organizations, websites, galleries and publications declare their mission is to serve the “emerging photographer.” With so many outlets showing only established (often dead) artists, this is a wonderful & much needed goal. Since I define myself as “emerging” (my name is largely unknown & I’ve never been represented by a gallery) I have been submitting my work to these venues for some time.

No takers.

This proves nothing of course. Everybody knows there are no guarantees, you just have to keep submitting, you must never take it personally. All true. Still, after perhaps 15 distinct, carefully prepared, multi-image submissions, I found it a little odd that I wasn’t included, even once, in large online group exhibitions, which -- taken together over the range of the venues -- amount to work by hundreds of photographers. Luckily, I had good success this year from other quarters, showing in two thematic gallery shows, being selected for an Arts for Transit exhibit at the Atlantic Ave.-Pacific St subway station , & selling pictures to books, magazines & collectors. Meanwhile, at the "emerging" sites, I noticed certain names appearing over & over, a surprising number of them very recent grads from elite art schools. I began to wonder: Is there something about my long-ago photojournalism degree from a Midwestern university or my peripatetic career path, winding in & out of photography, film, fiction writing, journalism & several other careers -- or even, dare I say it, my age -- that disqualifies me from being labeled “emerging”?

Yes, yes, I know I’m starting to sound snarky. But that ends my testimony. In fact, I have no interest in naming names or pointing fingers. I’ll just say -- all sophistry aside -- that “emerging” in one’s 50s or even 60s seems quite as feasible to me as “emerging” in one’s 20s. Maybe more so.

To my great delight one of my favorite bloggers, Tim Atherton, agrees. In his most recent post, " 'Expiration notice' -- under 35 don't bother applying, " he writes, "It's an incorrect assumption that photographers start around 18, go to school (or head out onto the street, assist, or jet off to the latest war), then do a couple of projects, then get them shown or published, get a gallery and so it goes - on from there. For one thing (except maybe for the ones that jet off to get their war in), there's often not much life experience in there - which is one of the big things that often shows."

Atherton goes on to point his readers to a soon-to-be-launched online gallery, Expiration Notice, created by Stan Banos & Mark Page that will show work by "35 yr olds and over" exclusively. This is the best news I've heard in a long time! The old hippy in me may still occasionally pine for an (art) world in which the only thing that matters is the work. But, on the other hand, in the words of the immortal Billie Holiday, "...god bless the child who's got his own."

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Young trees for a New Year

"Young tree for the New Year," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

I keep photographing trees. All kinds, all seasons & all stages of growth, but especially young transplanted trees, like the one above, that have been given the basics of soil, drainage, sunlight & (in my city) a chicken-wire fence against marauding kids & leg-lifting dogs.

This year I have decided to invoke the young trees as a symbol of new beginnings. In the culture generally, of course, a baby human plays this role. The early Catholic church -- much smarter than it is now -- originally chose the story of baby Jesus's hard-times' birth to overlay the old pagan solstice rituals. And it worked. True, baby Jesus was supposed to represent just the Christmas part of the solstice festivities, but in fact he stayed for the whole season. At some point a knockoff version even got into the New Year's celebration as the merry little cartoon cherub with the year-number emblazoned on his diaper

I mean no disrespect to the baby savior myth -- which I have always loved -- but maybe it's time for something different.

Mammalian babies inspire devotion because they're all beautiful possibility. They're chubby & soft, their skin & hair is fresh & sweet-smelling, their eyes are lustrous. No wonder we say they're adorable. Baby trees on the other hand are actually much uglier than their adult counterparts. For young trees there's no evolutionary percentage in being cute.

So let's hear it for the skanky, spikey sprouts, shaking & shivering in the winter blasts. They don't care if they look ridiculous inside their chicken-wire enclosures, trussed & cabled in their woodchip yards. They just want to make it till spring. With time, a certain amount of rainfall & good luck they'll shoot up into the airey world above the rest of us. They'll be stately & leafy & venerable, admired, perhaps even famous. They'll be real works of art.