Friday, July 21, 2017

Living In Alternia

Bob Mueller peering into an alternate reality in the making (propped up by a hostile foreign entity).   Photo: © S. Banos

Split personalities are not limited to Hollywood psycho-killers, we have one for a President: one half, barely rational moron, the other- totally delusional, (semi)-successful, outright con man deluxe. And some people like it just-like-that... because in all the subsequent confusion and disarray of alternative facts and priorities, that's how they get to dismantle a (somewhat) functional democracy once and for all into the little fiefdom(s) these wannabe warlords seek to either pervert, or dismember- while the rest of us shout in vain that the house is on fire... 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

No, Not Quite Hell, But...

The wife and I were having this (usual for us) conversation just the night before. We can't possibly reincarnate into this earthly life yet again once we depart the present. We're exhausted, disgusted (with humanity per se), and let's face it- we ain't gonna get any better than we are now (least I'm not). This is indubitably the very best version of me attainable- granted, not much... but what could be gained risking the possibility of regressing and going backwards? Really don't wanna go there...

Lombard St.   Photo: © S. Banos

Anyway... how does this get us to Lombard St.- "The Crookedest Street in the World?" It's an incredibly beautiful street in San Francisco- very nice homes, highlighted with flowers everywhere in one of the most uniquely architectured living environments anywhere! So what's the problem? 

Well, despite all the above- it's also besieged, and I do mean besieged, by tourists every damn minute of every damn day. Those residents have little, if any respite from the meandering hordes... ever! Morning, noon or night. Even in Italian hill towns, tourists tend to dissipate come night and winter. Not here. They are on their streets and sidewalks, their driveways, posing in front of their front yards. Residents are literally prisoners in their own homes- nice as they are! On the other hand... while I do have sympathy (I really don't know if I could withstand it)- it's not like they're living in Iraq or Syria.*

I've often gone to the top of Lombard St. attempting to get some Marty Parr(ish) type photos of all the ridiculousness, but have always come back empty handed. This time I found myself at the bottom (it's on a steeply inclined hill) where I made note of said monument to what crosses my mind every time I've gone there.

I suppose there are various versions and intensities of hell, and we all have our shared and unique burdens to persevere- Chrissakes, the very fact that I can casually ponder such inequities is proof in and of itself of my "elite" world class status... despite living on an economic precipice. It's just that, it's just that... goddamn, life is hard enough even when you're not living on the streets, hard enough when they're not taking pot shots at ya, hard enough when you don't have a terminal disease or major disability! 

Next time 'round, maybe I'll just learn to stop complaining.Though that won't be particularly easy if I'm plunked down in the midst of a nuclear winter- particularly with all the Repubs crowing about how wrong we got global warming...

*All kidding aside- this is what hell on earth really looks like (ironically, they're the first to mention that there are others who have it even worse).

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Fun Time Hits The Fan...

It's Official!! Met with a foreign government agent to influence a Presidential election (and more)...
Listen closely- they're starting to scurry in the background as we speak. We're within arms' reach of official Panic Mode. 
Hurry, Hurry, Hurry... Watch The Combover Don as he throws his "High Quality" Shit of a son right under the fleeting bus... 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Save The Humans

Brooklyn    Photo: © S. Banos

History will record this as the era when "reality" was conveniently and most unwillingly hijacked into a celebrity driven contradiction of "alternative facts." Bush era Republicans having long ago dismissed a "reality" based... reality

Personally, my reality is consistently more straightforward, consisting of: my immediate environs, various media, people I choose to stay in contact with- and those on the streets casually conversing aloud with or without the aid of a cell phone or fellow conversant.

Reality is, I won't be around in a few years. But for the life of me, I will never be able to understand the "family value" types, particularly those with children, who cannot (or more inexplicably) refuse to see that we are diligently continuing to degrade and poison our planet, our very life source, their very future- unabated and... unconcerned.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Fate Of The Osage

One of the things I love most, particularly with the passage of time, is the "discovery" of little known (and rather mind blowing- least to me) episodes of history that I had no idea ever existed! Pieces of history with little to no precedent, whose very existence are in contradiction to everything before or after- and that seemingly fly in the face of history itself. 

The full panorama. Courtesy Archie Mason

The Osage Indian Murders is just such an instance where history has not only been forgotten- but very purposely expunged. Of course, the blatant racism (and violence) against Native Americans certainly comes as no surprise, it's the aberration of wealth and power that these people attained against all odds, if only for so brief a time- before they were so violently and surreptitiously stripped of any and all vestige of that material prestige... by the dominant society that just wouldn't allow Indians of means living amongst Whites who had less. That was simply not how "reality" was supposed to transpire- and they quickly set about correcting it through every means imaginable!

And, of course, history always has a way of repeating, resonating and... being forgotten.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy 4th!

NYC   Photo: © S. Banos
And speaking of vets, patriotism and heroes for that matter- I'll ask, yet again... When is the great Hollywood bio-epic (or even a freakin' statue for Chrissakes!) gonna be made for this Great American Hero, or... this guy? These were real leaders- heroes who lived and experienced war, unlike our current 5X deferment who liked playing soldier in school, or the one who bravely defended Texan  airspace.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Two For The Road...

To make your work stand out in these days when everyone is a photographer, and everything has been done... one must first, make them notice, and then- have them actively engage with your work; that is what any and every photographer strives to somehow achieve. Many will go to extremes of locale, technique or promotion to achieve just that- while most of us settle for compositions that flatter the subject matter at hand or somehow visually entice the viewer's attention, if only for the most fleeting glances of approval. 

Photo: Teju Cole

Writer/photographer Teju Cole has taken a hybrid approach to this artistic dilemma in his latest publication called Blind Spot, readily combining his photographs with various short anecdotes and musings that may or may not be directly related to the image at hand. Some of the photographs are quite good and form a strong bond with their combined "story line;" the photograph sets the pathway for the visual journey, the words help elaborate our levels of appreciation and understanding. Other times, it seems he's granted extra points just for referencing and quoting "the classics" 

While some critics have labeled it a work of "genius," it's definitely more a hit or miss experience for moi. The most compelling combination for this viewer/reader being the photo of a woman with a tattoo of a name and year on the back of her neck- and the tragedy that related her to said date and person halfway across the world. The story behind that image was enough to overcome my initial outrage that the photograph featured the women's neck in deep shadow- blotting out even the slightest vestige of said tattoo! A tell tale sign that his signature strength lies in writing?

Disposing of the evidence? Or just out for cigs?  
 Photo: Mark Steinmetz

Fifteen Miles To K-Ville is the latest book from Mark Steinmetz. There's something about his work that not only attracts my visual curiosity, but also compels me to figure out just what the heck is actually going on- both within and beyond the confines of his photographs. Some have an almost film noir aura to them, a mystery frustratingly hard to put into words- and so they remain an inexplicable hostage of my own personal taste. To be sure, there are other photographs between its covers that are simple visual delights more likely to garner Likes on Instagram (eg- the hearse at the porn emporium)- together they make for a most transformative journey...

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Death Of A City

Photo: © S. Banos

The history of Arecibo (my father's birthplace), like the history of Puerto Rico itself, is a sad one. It was a quaint but relatively prosperous town that within the last couple of decades has gone well past the point of decline. Its quaint, Spanish colonial era buildings have literally begun to crumble from increasing neglect and isolation- the reasons not uncommon to those found in many mainland American cities: shopping malls, giant box stores, massive under employment, etc. Add to that... decades of American military, economic and political hegemony enforced by domestic corruption.

Never been to Cuba, but from all appearances, Arecibo seems a capitalist mirror in miniature- although possibly worse. As for the future... yet another symbolic, and very real reminder of what an afterthought this 30 X 100mi island (and its people) remains to this day...

Monday, June 26, 2017

La Tierra

I generally don't make a habit of photographing murals, I just enjoy them for what they are- when they warrant such. But I did take a snap of this one since I liked the graphics, and more importantly- the saying within...

  Photo: © S. Banos

La tierra es de qien la trabaja con sus manos- Zapata.  
Translation: The land belongs to those who work it with their hands.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Trump Matryoshka!

Photo: © S. Banos

Huh? Oh, those little Russian doll thingies, exactly- like in keep peeling the layers, and guess who you're gonna find deep down inside... and it ain't gonna be no babushka! 

Photo: © S. Banos

Gonna be outta town for a week (non-photo work/vacation), don't think either of the above two will happen in that short a time period, but I'm a "hopeful" kinda guy- one who can still remember how even Watergate was a painfully s-l-o-w... process.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

If You're Not Angry...

What kind of person are you? So asks Ken Loach, whose most recent film I, Daniel Blake presents an aging carpenter hitting on hard times, times that will not be unfamiliar with many working class Americans. It's a small film with no major stars, but it packs an emotional wallop mercifully without the usual Hollywood histrionics. And it does so because the actors are so very, very credible and the story line without contrivance. 

The divisions between classes, socially, economically are ever deepening- and in turn being used against us, and often with our own consent- consciously or not. And those naive enough to think America a classless society are truly unhinged. I, Daniel Blake does not preach, if anything, it's almost documentary in pacing; it depicts the anonymous lives of those struggling to stay head over water, young and old. People we walk amongst every day...

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Street Foto San Francisco 2017

One of the better photo exhibits I've seen in a while in San Francisco is currently at Photoworks.* It features work by Daniel Arnold, Aaron Berger and Troy Holden, replete with a colorful variety of the pleasures and surprises the street can offer. 

I didn't stay long after perusing the work at the official opening; there was many a photographer there and while they all seemed nice enough blokes, I didn't know any of 'em, ain't much of a mingler and all the Leica's strung about their necks and shoulders made me slightly nauseous. So I ambled my way unto the street where soon enough- yet another Leica guy thrust his camera in my face and snapped away... Can't complain too much when karma slaps ya upside the head (with a Leica no less)... OK, so what if I've always secretly kinda lusted for one- fortunately, economics prevented me from becoming the guy I would feel uneasy becoming. 

Tomorrow (if my mouth isn't completely swollen from the dental surgery I'm scheduled for in the afternoon), I'll hit SF Camerawork to catch Blake Andrews and Steven Bollman- won't stay too long for that one either (gotta watch them Dubs in The Finals)- sorry, Blake!

Other good stuff happening at The Harvey Milk Center include lectures by: Don Hudson, Bruce Gilden, Jesse Marlow, etc. 

*In the interest of full disclosure Photoworks has made some great quality prints for me this year in color and B&W- and no, not a paid endorsement...

Monday, June 5, 2017

Losers 2017 Cont...

These are the three losing photos I submitted to the "Best Street Photo" segment of The StreetFoto San Francisco 2017 Contest. Didn't think I'd have much of a chance in this particular segment (kinda reminds me why I don't do Lotto), in fact I had no idea what to even submit, it's such a ridiculously broad category- which I'm betting is judged from a rather narrow spectrum of all that could be considered relevant to this genre. So I ended up submitting three shots that all had a camera in it, even though it was a singles competition with no extra points gained for my chosen "theme."

Photo: © S. Banos

Photo: © S. Banos

Photo: © S. Banos

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Friday, June 2, 2017

The Thrill Is Gone

Me and the wife attempted to watch House of Cards last night, it's been a perennial fave. From the opening scene... I knew it was just not gonna be the same- ever. It was fun watching all these years, making believe that a complete sociopath had somehow commandeered his way into the White House. Just think of it!

Now that we live it- not so much...

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Camera Covfefe

What!? You bought the very same camera you so vehemently put down just a coupla years ago? I did- and didn't, at least, not quite; that is, I didn't put it down completely. The problem on initial purchase was that I went into it desperately hoping that the Fujifilm XT-1 would be my be all/do all camera. And no, it is not! Far as I'm concerned, B&W remains the sovereign terrain of analog film (with exceptions for B&W digital taken in shade)- digital still retains that unnatural/washed out look in direct sunlight. And my GR remains my everyday camera w/o question.

So what need/hole/purpose does the XT-1 then fill? Well, at the current $800 price tag (down from the original $1,300), it is significantly more alluring- period. And that said- the XT-1 is one of the best looking cameras... ever! I'll never afford the Leica mystique, but the XT-1 is one little gem of a beauty, and something I can currently afford, now that I have a few extra bucks in my pocket- something that has not occurred in a long, long (long) while...

And while all EVF's are basically shit in direct sunlight, my eyes ain't doing all that great with an OVF either, under any light these days- so autofocus compensates. The XT-1's gonna be my official camera covfefe,* my special event/project camera when B&W is not of primary consideration- and even then, I'll still pack my FM. Fujinon glass is topnotch, and even with only 16 megapixels, it renders some really crisp 16in prints (as does the GR), the size of which I've really become enamored of- just big enough, and still hand friendly.

Fujifilm XT-1, 14mm   The Batman: © S. Banos

So I should have just stayed with the XT-1 since the get go, right? Well, I couldn't afford to keep a camera I didn't see a real purpose for, and if I had, I would've never discovered the GR- a camera I continue to have a daily need for...

Bottom line: B&W analog/digital post- hours/days, B&W restorations- days/weeks, color post- 1hr... tops! And right now, I have enough B&W files to edit right into eternity. If I can get viable images in digital color- so be it; one has only so much time.
* as of this writing, this top secret Trumpism has yet to be officially deciphered/declassified

Monday, May 29, 2017


A recent convert to reincarnation, I just knew I had seen that face before- that evil, Machiavellian leer hoisted atop a shrew like appendage of a body. Roy Cohn was the living embodiment of a back stabbing, shadow lurking misanthrope down to the very pore. From Joe McCarthy's henchman to Donald's advisor, to... human snake who tried to physically force a drug induced, senile 84 yr old to sign over his money to him while pretending said papers concerned his divorce.

Demi-god of death and The Man Who Made Trump

And now he stalks the living once more, lurking about doing the dirty business of his present day prince of darkness. The torch has been passed, the transition seamless, there can be no doubt- the names differ, the mission remains...

Stephen Miller- Shit On A Stick Take II