Art Endures

Circus Circus (C) 2003 Kevin Bjorke Watching the “Raw Video” clips over at reuters.com and as usual they rock. Being able to just watch the lightly-edited raw footage, without voiceover or some dopey camerahog doing a standup in front of a safe gate or highway berm, is a monumentally great and apparently not-well-known resource.

Today the feeds were full of Iraqi looting, of course. And a quick snip of the departing Iraqi delegate to the UN: “I love New York.” One long clip covered a tour one of Qusay Hussein’s so-far largely-unlooted palaces, along with the associated undestroyed yacht.

The palaces are fascinating in their bizarre mixtures of art, high, low, and indifferent. When the first footage of a Saddam residence showed up on Tuesday, CNN repeated showed a tall multiple-picture frame, the sides adorned with sprocket holes, to make some allusion to motion picture stills — the sort of thing you would find at any of the cheapest gift shops on Hollywood Boulevard. It was filled not with family snaps but official portraits.

Qusay’s yacht was decorated with Babylonian motifs, mixed with a large dose of Louis XIV gold trim. The house? Huge Boris Vallejo fantasy paintings, or perhaps simply commisioned knockoffs of Boris Vallejo paintings (the fortune you could get for those at Comicon, heh).

If the Iraqi government hasn’t already done so, someone should really create a catalog of Hussein art — not the art owned by him, per se, but the art of him. I wonder if any of it dared have a voice of its own, or if it all was safely kitsch, like that of the great dictatorships of the 30’s and 40’s so admired by Saddam.

TMax I hardly knew ye

(C)2003 Kevin Bjorke Okay, forget anything bad I ever said about TMax 100 (except maybe the drying part, and the mysterious pink stuff). These last rolls (coupla nights back) have made me a believer again. Crisp, broad latitude, good stuff. The last batch had a number of frames from something I’m calling the “infinity project” though it may be a while before any of it starts to see the light of day here or elsewhere. Looking at them gives me more ideas to improve it, and reassures me on the validity of some of the ideas.

No surprise, no Salon win for me. Maybe in a couple of weeks I can come up with something funny for the next topic, “Traces” selected by Michal Daniel.

Family Values (Part 1, probably)

Monterey, Calif, home of Ansel Adams (C) 2003 Kevin Bjorke The … industrialization of camera technology only carried out a promise inherent in photography from its very beginning: to democratize all experiences by translating them into images.
- Susan Sontag, On Photography

Such democratization’s most-obvious expression, its adherents might say, is the photoblog. There’s no obvious shortage of them —a href=”http://www.photoblogs.org/”>photoblogs.org</a> currently lists over 1100, with new ones being added four or five each day.

1 min read

Acros

San Francisco (C) 2003 Kevin Bjorke One roll Acros, two rolls Tmax 100, Xtol 1::1 9.5mins. I forgot about the mystery red stain from the TMax (anti-halation layer?). One Neopan400 rated 800, Xtol 1::1 11.5 mins.

Acros has a unique snap, described well by one early reviewer as “metallic.” I’ve never run any charts on it, but suspect it’s just that it blocks-up in the highlights, similar to slide film. Anyone know?

I can say this much — dries faster than Kodak, probably due to the plastic film base. This is ready to scan and sleeve after 4-5 hours, while the Tmax is still a wee bit sticky and still hanging.

Old Ho’s Last Laugh

Back in the 1960’s, there was an episode when Lyndon Johnson suggested offering North Vietnam a large dose of western-style incentive, as a deal to secure the peace. Cash and know-how to build hydroelectic power reservoirs in Vietnam, thinking it would transform the region into Tennessee-on-the-Mekong.

“Ol’ Ho just can’t turn that down!” Johnson is reported to have gleefully proclaimed, before the plan was rejected by the Vietnamese.

I have thought often of this story whenever I hear current politicians talking about Iraqis’ supposed willingness to turn themselves into happily westernized “free” consumers as a result of the coming (now current, and stalled) invasion.

2 min read