Kearny from Market

bjorke_PICS1251.jpg

"No one moment is most important.... Any moment can be something." - Garry Winogrand

Kearny from Market: posted November 23, 2014 | Comments (0)

Market Off Third

PICS1933.jpg

"The principal object in the picture must be fairly sharp, just as sharp as the eye sees it and no sharper, but everything else, and all other planes of the picture, must be subdued... slightly out of focus." - Peter Henry Emerson, 1886

Market Off Third: posted November 16, 2014 | Comments (0)

Fremont and Market

bjorke_PICS1923.jpg

"Whatever the noise and violence around them, photographs return objects to a state of stillness and silence. In the midst of urban hustle and bustle, they recreate the equivalent of the desert, a phenomenal isolation. They are the only ways of passing through cities in silence, of moving through the world in silence." - Jean Baudrillard

Fremont and Market: posted November 14, 2014 | Comments (0)

O'Farrell

bjorke_DSCF4276.jpg

"I don’t believe in the psychologizing portrait photography that my colleagues do, trying to capture the character with a lot of light and shade. That’s absolutely suspect to me. I can only show the surface. Whatever goes beyond that is more or less chance." - Thomas Ruff

O'Farrell: posted November 13, 2014 | Comments (0)

Market and First

bjorke_PICS1937.jpg

"Photography has no rules. It is not a sport" - Bill Brandt
Market and First: posted November 09, 2014 | Comments (0)

The Thing

bjorke_DSCF4438.jpg

"In photography, you always have both the medium and the depicted subject at the same time." -- Thomas Ruff

In Ruff's work, the image is a very particular thing. I especially like his over-enlarged internet Jpegs. His more recent work has wandered into CG and crypto-photograms, a process that creates an image of imagery, where the "true" object, placed on photo paper, is itself replaced by an ephemeral concept, a mental image of an optical image. So meta.

The crisis of "thingness" in photography is at once at the root of many of its greatest strengths and weaknesses, as pointed out by painter Gerhard Richter:

Photography has almost no reality; it is almost a hundred percent picture. And painting always has reality...

...by which he appears to mean that a painting is an object to itself while a photo is an image separate from any specific object -- a mechanical recording of the real image, the collections of things and light that passed for some time in front of the lens. A painting is not like that. It is what it is.

Now, you can argue about representation. Stephen Pinker has opined that even the most abstract painting (say, applied in alternating squeegee strokes) is still a representation: of the artist's process, their thought process, or the artist themselves.

Which makes for a long page of quotes and speculations but very little specific opinion. I'm in a period of great activity right now -- both with the camera and without it. Maybe one requires the other. And a lot of thought about what it means, without a clear verbal answer but with enough internalized understanding to keep working obsessively every day.

Someone else can decide if it's any good but no one else is going to do it, so I set my alarm every morning and just get on.

The Thing: posted October 26, 2014 | Comments (0)

Seventh at Mission

bjorke_DSCF4457.jpg

The 50mm perspective always both troubles and seduces me. It has a distortion-ree feel -- neither too flat nor stretched out at the corners. And yet so constrained, as if the eye is snugly wedged into a box.

Seventh at Mission: posted October 25, 2014 | Comments (0)

Market to New Montgomery

bjorke_PICS1285.jpg

"Look, if you want to learn how to write, you study the alphabet and exercise every day. And in the end you have a very beautiful alphabet. But what are you expressing with the alphabet? Perfect technique but expressing nothing. This is what I call 'calligraphic photographs á l’americaine.'" -- André Kertész

Market to New Montgomery: posted October 21, 2014 | Comments (0)

Hangzhou

P1090657.jpg

"Representation of the world like the world itself is the work of men, they describe it from their point of view which they confuse with absolute truth." - Simone de Beauvoir

Hangzhou: posted October 18, 2014 | Comments (0)

Fourth Before Minna

bjorke_PICS0595.jpg

Guess I haven't been paying attention? Ralpha Gibson is shooting digital now, unlike what he was vowing not to do a couple of years back.

I'm sure all the proper people have been scandalized.

Fourth Before Minna: posted October 12, 2014 | Comments (0)

Stevenson Departing Second

bjorke_PICS0391.jpg

"I do not mistrust reality, of which I know next to nothing, but I am suspicious regarding the image of reality which our senses convey to us, and which is incomplete and limited. Our eyes have developed such as to survive. It is merely coincidence that we can see stars with them, as well." - Gerhard Richter

Stevenson Departing Second: posted October 02, 2014 | Comments (0)

Three Essentially Difficult Pieces

This post started as three different posts, each of which got bogged down in its own overwrought explication. I realized they all shared concerns about essentialism, of what makes a photo... a photo. I’ve decided to just stack them and cut straight down in straight lines across all three. Kick ‘em all.

  1. Why is photography in art shows so bad? Especially compared to the painting. In the past couple of months I’ve seen three local shows that either featured or included “new” photography: this one at a museum, this one at a local arts institution, and this 30,000-square foot "party" declaring itself a route to making San Jose the "next Brooklyn" (I thought the current Brooklyn was the next San Francisco? So confused...) -- in every case there was a some good work and plenty of camera-club cruft holiday snaps that could have been as easily shot in 1937 as 2014. To my further astonishment the cruft was lauded, while good work in those shows was snubbed (Marin Artists at least found the best of the bunch on display -- the California Statewide... not so much).
  2. Cameras matter. Get some black gaffer tape. When I was in school, the library received an PC with a color display. Quickly an array of painting students started reserving time on it, for the sake of using the then-new painting tool: a mouse and screen. They loved it. It was very entertaining to them, and it was entertaining to watch them use it. The resulting final images were rarely of any note. The aesthetic satisfactions were not intrinsic in the product, but there could be ones in the process. It was rarely obvious to those early digital painters. Likewise cameras, with now well more than a century of steady development as consumer-pleasing devices, have made the process of creating Expected Images maddeningly easy to execute by rote -- just find a stock picturesque subject & press (if the computer can’t do it all for you… surely there is some GPS-enabled phone app guide to Kodak Picture Spots?). Enjoy the smooth feel of the device in your hand. Want more creativity? Break out the check book. (From such a perspective, perhaps there really is merit in the retro crazes of recent years -- a desire to make images in spite of the technical shortcomings, rather than to hurtle along making the same photos that ones sees posted as examples in the Canon & Nikon adverts). I was recently asked why I mask the bright white brand names on my cameras with black tape. Why don't I want to show the logos off? To make the camera more discrete, I replied as usual. But also, it is a tiny, almost Banksy-like reaction. Their logos should not dominate my process or pictures. An inescapable paradox, because there is a satisfaction in holding a well-crafted tool.
  3. What you see is all there is. I joined up as part of Zack Arias’s Dedpxl series of photo assignments. He promised to make me a better photographer, and perhaps it is working (little instruction penetrates my thick skull, but he gives it an earnest try). It is fascinating to see lots of people all attack the same assignments in the same weeks. It’s like… school! I admit, I sometimes miss that. Though unlike students in art school, most of the ones in the public-school flickr version bare more than a little animosity to the idea of open critique and discussion. That’s okay, too. But what keeps gnawing at me is the notion that flickr photos (and/or photos on 500px and Google+) represent the entire scope of photographic practice. That there is somehow a “best way” to make “good” photos when it’s hard enough to even begin to gauge the criteria of general success for the shooter. Are they aiming to make better baby pictures of their nephew, planning a commercial product-photo career, or hoping for an eventual retrospective exhibit at the Tate? Flickr and the like present photos in a manner that is loaded with many assumptions, compromises, and copious baggage. I’m astonished that people can get caught-up on pixel peeping when their 4K photos are being displayed 300 pixels across. It’s not a secret, but it doesn’t really feel acknowledged properly, either. Flickr and their ilk reduce all discourse to a stream of random snips, where all images are resized, rehashed, down-sampled, and maybe later appropriated and posted as part of someone else’s Upworthy media-bite.

Enjoy your Sunday.

Three Essentially Difficult Pieces: posted September 21, 2014 | Comments (0)

Camputer

bjorke_Collected.jpg
Dogs and Lunches, etc

If It Has a Ringtone, It's Not a Camera. Panasonic Lumix's advertising slogan didn't last long -- not, I think, because there would soon enough be a Lumix-branded mobile phone, but because it's a slogan that can easily be interpreted either way: that a celphone is less than a camera, or (oops) that a camera is potentially rather less than a cameraphone.

It's also less than a "camera-puter," which is an aspect that is neither camera nor phone.

In the simplest sense, the camputer is a portal for images direct from your hand to the internet. But what about pictures before they ever leave the phone? If they ever leave the phone?

The utilitarian camera-as-scratchpad notion that's been spreading since the advent of home video (even, for a few, on Super 8) is now something that almost everyone takes for granted. End a meeting with a whiteboard full of scribbles that might be useful later? No time to copy them in a notepad? Use the camera phone. Want to keep a snap of the good-for-once haircut? Want to remember that the car is parked on Level 4 Blue zone? Easy and the photos just as easily cast off when they're done.

Camphone as agent of political change? The jury's out on its genuine effectiveness, but certainly it's had a huge and unpredictable effect on the relations of people, governments, politicians, and the media between them.

Beyond these "useful" applications, though, and beyond the camphone's replacement of point and shoots for a quick facebook-upload fix -- are there new ideas that might be useful creatively? The rapid spread of programs like Hipstamatic and Vignette (or even CamScanner) provide a hint to one other direction, closer to usual photographic practice -- the collapse/reversal of the traditional photo workflow. Sure, you could already take a digital photo and then push it through Photoshop to alter the character of the color and contrast, emulating the look of a particular film stock. The patterns were still the same: capture, process, and (potentially) presentation.

The advent of processing tricks in the camera application collapse the first two steps into one. Just set the camera on "Velvia" and go find some fall foliage. Heck, put the processing and border-generating on "shuffle."

Or even shoot with a different camera and import the images into your phone, rather than spend $500 on Photoshop: which is just what is happening here -- cited by Leica, no less. Established commercial photographer Laura Rossignol shooting on a D-Lux 5 (aka Lumix LX5), and then (after doing selects in Lightroom) "I like to take the post processing one step further and I will email a finished version to myself so I can open it in the Picture Show iPhone app. It allows you to add interesting effects and frames."

(Addendum: Adobe's John Nack made a similar post to this one, wondering: why would you edit on a mobile device?, just a few days ago....)

I used to think that the transparency or negative was the canonical object. As Ansel Adams wrote about it, the negative was like a musical score, to be interpreted by a darkroom performance for each new print. Throw that idea away. Immediate darkroom-ish styling on the fly: whether you think they're insanely great or sentimentally godawful, they're as fundamental a part of the New Beast's nature as is the thickness of oil paint or a trumpet's high notes. Get used to it, this is still just an early wave.

Camputer: posted February 02, 2011 | Comments (0)

Vignettes

Click for Larger Image

I'll be the first to say that I find most Holga/Diana-wana-be photgraphy cloying and twee and it's pretty rare that even the most earnest results feel like anything more than just a rehash of Nancy Rexroth's "IOWA." So you can imagine my reflex reaction to programs that deliberately "crappify" otherwise-clear, direct images, burying them under just so much mannered noise. And you'd be right, at least about my initial reaction. Why my attitude has changed in the next photorant entry.

In the mean time, since I couldn't find one that entirely suited me, here are a couple of guides to the color modes (and below, frame styles) offered as presets by the Android camera-phone program Vignette. A similar chart can be found here, but it was missing skin tones).

Click for Larger Image

Vignettes: posted February 01, 2011 | Comments (1)

Flashy Foods

bjorke_jan_28_food.jpg
What I Ate: 28 Jan 2011

The flash diet doesn't require using flash, and it isn't really a diet per se, but an alternative to keeping a food diary -- photograph everything you eat. A side benefit is that it gives you an excuse to make at least a few photographs every day.

For entertainment value I've given myself a little rubric:
    • Celphone only: twee "FX" apps okay
    • "One bullet": c'mon, it's time to eat
    • Context: ingredients, locations, companions

Here is a great thing about celphone cameras: they're not Hasselblads. They're more like a real "pencil of nature," in that a pencil has incredible range -- you can use the same pencil to jot down the grocery list or to draw a masterwork. The Hasselblad is more like oil paints -- wonderful for what it does, but too grand and technically involved for casual muddling.

Flashy Foods: posted January 28, 2011 | Comments (1)

Older Entries