Clementina at Third

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" I mean, photography is all right if you don’t mind looking at the world from the point of view of a paralyzed cyclops—for a split second. But that's not what it’s like to live in the world, or to convey the experience of living in the world." - David Hockney

Many years ago David Hockney came to look at working with us at Digital Productions, to satisfy a curiosity of his about perspective. It seemed to me that he was after the notion that every object -- perhaps even every varying surface of an object -- might have its own frame of perspective, it's own lens and vanishing point.

At the time the whole idea of applying computer graphics to explore this idea was prohibitively expensive and now, when it's easier, he's moved on in different ways (his large prints from iPad paintings were going for ~$98K a pop at Art Basel last week). But that idea has always stuck with me because I could see a truth in it: that "realism" was an "ism" and that there may be others -- even using tools designed to make realism automatic -- that are just as true.

Clementina at Third: posted December 16, 2014 | Comments (0)

15th and 2nd, Miami

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At Art Basel with a stop at the Miami Street Photography Festival, shooting both my little Fuji and a Leica Monochrom. Will write it up in due course.

15th and 2nd, Miami: posted December 08, 2014 | Comments (2)

Third and Minna

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"A window covered with raindrops interests me more than a photograph of a famous person." - Saul Leiter

Third and Minna: posted November 27, 2014 | Comments (0)

Kearny from Market

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"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

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"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

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"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

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"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

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

The Thing

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"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

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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

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"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

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"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

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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

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"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)

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