Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Early spring, Manhattan

"Stuyvesant Town 1," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

"Stuyvesant Town 2," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Firefox rallies late to overcome Safari

Firefox logo

In certain circles I have been known for my angry rants against Firefox. "Oh the web browser?" you ask, amazed. "Are you a...nerd?" Well, no, but somebody once called me a colorist, which is much, much worse. My complaint was -- well, Firefox's colors basically sucked.

In fact, they were pallid, unsaturated, dishwater dull. It made me crazy that no one else, not even my artist friends, seemed to notice or care. Firefox was faster, more stable, more user-friendly, they told me. And it was true. But it was color that counted. And Safari gave me great color.

It's true I might have discovered Firefox's big change of heart earlier than today if I had bothered to download the latest version that's been bouncing the Software Update icon up & down on my monitor for who knows how long. But, hey, it's news to me, so it's news. That's the way I look at it.

Firefox fixed their colors!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Avatar & the dream of flying

Apple trailer-teaser, "Avatar"

By now you've seen Avatar, maybe more than once. You don't need my review. Let me just argue that all the critics got it right -- the grumpy cineastes who panned it as a simplistic, hack version of the "white messiah" theme, pitting noble mystic-native good guys against greedy techno-corporate bad guys... & the eager technophiles who could not find enough ways to hail it as a historic breakthrough & the greatest pure movie-viewing experience ever.

To me, Avatar is both. Personally, I don't much care that it's a stupid story because I find its images so hauntingly beautiful. I'm particularly moved by the flying sequences, which, after all, tap into a very ancient human dream -- a literal sleeping dream for millions, starting long before Icarus & including me. We've had films of flying before -- shot from balloons & airplanes, e.g. -- but they are dependent on the vagaries of light & lenses & of course they can only record what's there. Avatar has none of these limitations. Its 3D is perfect & we fly through a made-up world.

A dream. Avatar is the only movie that has ever -- for whole sequences -- taken me over like my own nighttime dreams.

I have always had blockbuster dreams. Recently, these have become more frequent. Sometimes after a dream has lit up my brain like a prairie-wide Nebraska thunderstorm for what seems like hours, I'll sit up & spend 20 minutes trying to gather my consciousness back into my head. Where have I been? In my own brain presumably. But who knows? My dreams are huge! They shake my being & then drain away, leaving only fragments.

It's odd that I can't remember much about my dreams, because I always experience them so intensely. They may not be aesthetically pleasing like the sequences in Avatar. They are sometimes hellish -- brutal, fecal, shocking. But their versimilitude, my sense of actually living them, is astonishingly complete. Just as in my waking life, I sometimes pull back & marvel at their complexity, the number & vividness of the colors, the intricacy of the plot. And just as in my waking life, their reality is not in dispute.

In my dreams I can fly. I leap from a high place, a roof or cliff top or high tree branch, &, at first, I fall, struggling, body & will, until the fall turns into a swoop & finally -- I am flying. But my flying is never easy. The power to rise, even a little bit, is rare. When it does come, it is somehow intuitive, only dimly understood, more a matter of warm wind or beautiful light than anything I'm doing. The power to simply stay aloft comes & goes too. My flying is best when I have no words or pictures or ideas in my mind, only pure, confident will. Anxiety weakens me & I lose altitude. As I approach the ground, fear jabs at me, the trees & buildings begin to block the sky & flying becomes harder. Going down, I land like a parachutist, tumbling & rolling, & come up running.

As I think about it, my 3-D flying with the blue people & giant reptile birds in Avatar is very different from this. It is beautiful, exalted. Effortless, lyrical, free. It costs me no effort. I love it.

In my own flying dreams I'm not supposed to be flying. I fly anyway & it gives me great joy. But the ground is always tugging. And death is always there.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Presto! Change-o! Where's the photograph?

If you use Adobe Photoshop, this little "sneak peek" at the upcoming CS5 version's Content-Aware Fill Tool will amaze you. Magic may have a number on the stock market now, but it's still magic & it deserves its due.

That doesn't mean we have to applaud it. Or, I should say, we don't have to applaud it without reservations. Everybody loves magic. On the other hand, the magician with the magic top hat not only makes the bunny appear. He also makes the bunny disappear.

Software running on a machine is about to give us the power to make what we don't want in a photo disappear from it as easily as waving a wand. Added to all the other magical transformations digital technology has made possible, how does this new fact change the meaning of a photograph? I don't see how any serious photographer can now avoid grappling with that question?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The world is messy. What about the photo?

"Spikehead," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

When I started out (in B & W), a clean shot like the one above, reduced to a few bold shapes & patterns, was the holy grail of street shooting. Even thinking I might have such a shot rolled up inside my (film) camera was enough to send me home excited and anxious. I would worry till I saw the negative, the contact sheet & finally the work print. Could it really be? No mess, no fuss, no unseen car bumper or corner of a swing set intruding? Mostly it didn't happen, of course. Usually something was wrong; the perfection was spoiled. But when it did happen, when I had captured something dynamic reduced to a state of radical simplicity I was sure I had created real art & I was very proud.

"Spikehead on the handball court," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

Now I don't feel that way. This shot (shown here a couple of days ago) was made a few seconds earlier or later than the top picture. I find it gives me more pleasure. Tonight at least, I'm convinced the world is messy, cluttered, complicated. I need to see this. I need context.

But this is not a policy pronouncement. I'm still thrilled to get a shot like the top one (full disclosure: I did a lot of digital retouching to get it -- more than would have been possible in analog). In some cases (another night) I would certainly prefer the simpler, cleaner shot. Maybe I've just stopped making a fetish out of it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Abby Robinson to lecture at SVA

Photo by Abby Robinson, All rights reserved

Photographer Abby Robinson will lecture at 7 pm tonight (Thursday, March 18) at The School of Visual Arts Amphitheatre, 209 East 23rd St, NYC, as part of the 2010 CCNY Lecture Series. More info here.

When I first met Abby, she was teaching a workshop on humor and photography. Later I saw her pictures. The B & Ws from early in her career are often funny, but not always feel-good funny. They can feel harshly examined, like specimens under powerful lights. They can sometimes make you wince and laugh at the same time.

Her more recent color photographs -- meticulously rendered photo studios from Asia -- are another story. True, the studios can't really be approached without irony by a westerner, but the gorgeous swooning color is pure pleasure. Abby may think whatever she likes as she takes these pictures. Her senses are in love.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sunset Park, Brooklyn

"Spiker "

"Caged tree"

"Go, Champ,"

Photos by Tim Connor, All rights reserved

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Robert Adams' 'Summer Nights, Walking'

"Christine's favorite," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

Saw & loved this show a couple of weeks ago with Christine at the Matthew Marks Gallery in Chelsea. I won't be writing about it. But I think you should see it if you can. Adams is one of the great masters -- his pictures seem at 1st austere, understated -- until they take your breath away.

Here's a short review from the New Yorker by Vince Aletti.

Here's more info on the show.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Caged tree in snowstorm

"Caged tree in winter, Prospect Park," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Beacon, NY: Winter streets and mountain

"Street and mountain in winter, Beacon, NY," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

"Street and mountain in winter (2), Beacon, NY," Tim Connor, All rights reserved