Friday, August 18, 2017

Wind River

Quite simply, Wind river is one of the better movies I've seen in some while. Jeremy Renner excels when playing the reserved and introspective protagonist who rises to the occasion, and here, he's most effectively set against the quite beauty and ever present danger of the wilds of Wyoming- in particular, in the territory of the the modern day res. And all these factors play major, contradictory roles as they compete for some manner of meaningful coexistence: the magnificence of the wild, versus the wild extremes of mankind. The story is straightforward enough- who killed the woman in the middle of nowhere? But solving the mystery unravels a whole world of hurt involving personal relationships and the age old rivalries between peoples, authorities, and the very land that sustains and threatens them all. 

The movie moves methodically as histories and boundaries are introduced and alluded to, a lingering threat always within reach, like the wild animals that still roam about. And just when one thinks they have the ebb and flow of the narrative figured... all hell breaks out in a shoot out that makes Reservoir Dogs look so utterly contrived, you're left wondering how such tranquil beauty can exist there at all!

Walking out, my wife turned to me and remarked how she's getting tired of having White men always save the day on screen, I remarked that at least in this one, their complicity was not... whitewashed. Or as Renner's character remarked, "Quiet and emptiness is all we've left them, and you even want to take that away."

The ending credits also alludes to the wave of disappeared and murdered Native American women that continues unabated throughout North America... 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

On White Privilege

Please note: the following is written in the hope of furthering dialogue and understanding, and should be read and understood in said manner...
(You may want to skip to 1:15 on the video). 

Yes, life is hard enough. It beats you down each and every day- and when least expected, just for good measure! No doubt, some have it easier than others; no doubt, no one escapes unscathed... not-a-one, anywhere.

And this is why some people (ie- Whites) have such a problem with the very concept of... White Privilege. And they'll be more than happy to tell you that they never got any privilege for being White long as they can remember. They got ridiculed, lied to, beat up and swindled same as anyone- regardless of race, creed or color. So where's the privilege in that?

And they're all good points- each and every one. The thing about White Privilege though is that it's not about all the indignities that everyone has to suffer through and experience in life- it's about the realm of degrading and often humiliating add-ons they don't know about or refuse to acknowledge, and don't have to experience.

Whites are justifiably proud when they have succeeded economically after having started with nothing- The American Dream! But they can quickly turn indignant should one mention that a person of Color who achieved the same also had to endure the additional prejudicial battles securing: housing, education, loans and other financial musts under conditions that Whites would never encounter or be subject to. Nothing enrages a White person more than suggesting that they had it easier on the ground floor than you- that you had to work twice as hard, struggle twice as hard, sweat twice as hard simply because of the color of your skin or the accent of your English. That is anathema to White ears, it undermines their paradigm of self serving beliefs; instead of just giving that person their due props, some will insist their success came about from monies and all manner of assistance from some "government program," some hand out, some entitlement- never by the sweat of their brow or... use of their intellect. And the fact that they were raised in neighborhoods that were red lined with the worst: schools, nutrition, medical care, economic opportunities, etc, etc never, ever comes into play. Many Whites unconsciously assume we all start on a level playing field- and do we really have to get into which group gets the severest penalties for the same exact crime (or gets shot for pulling out their... license)? Mention any obstacle you have to overcome solely because of prejudice, and you have more than crossed the line- you are now playing the dreaded, indefensible, and totally unforgivable... "race card!"

As one person of Color remarked, "Everyday I have to think about race." And that's because whenever we're slighted or wronged, we have the additional task of considering if that particular rebuke or mistreatment occurred not because we erred as a human being- but because of a knee jerk, egregious reaction to our color or accent. We have to experience a White world simply to work and live our lives, Whites rarely have to live in or even experience our segment of reality.

I could go on and on and on with more and more examples, but that is only likely to stir up more anger, denial and resentment, within certain factions. So the video cuts to the chase, and serves a very simple purpose... Because even the most truly hardened and prejudicial of people have to admit in their heart of hearts that had President Obama said half of what Trump has said (particularly that little ol' "pussy" thang), the (White) hordes would have descended en force, torches alight and pitch forks gleaming on that (dump of a) White House lawn, screaming with veins a popping in their necks to bring him on out so they could lynch that uppity, no good n.....

But the point is, they don't have to admit it, not to anyone, not ever- not even to themselves; and that, in a nutshell, is the very essence of... White Privilege.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Late On Arrival...

Photo: © S. Banos

Recently, I edited 11 digital color keepers in the period of one week after a Sunday shoot (yes, I do have a F/T job) with time to spare. It took me one week of post for this one hi-res B&W analog photo- some six or so years after the fact. 'Nuff said...

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Trump's Lies...

As Trump's base rabidly applauds every fateful step that plunges us further into his arrogance based ignorance, it's at least somewhat comforting to know that some manner of reality based "Truth to Power" continues to persist...

Friday, August 4, 2017

Fate, Luck & Happenstance

Maybe half of the four of you who read this blog remember I had a Fujifilm XT-1 two years back, and quickly sold it after I realized that the EVF sucked, the B&W was less than what I had imagined, and that it would not, in fact, be my do everything, be everything camera of the future (yeah, you'd think I'd know better)... 

So why, oh why, did I go out and buy another? Well, I'm actually quite glad I sold the first- it allowed me to go hog wild and experiment with a Ricoh GR a year later, which opened an entirely new window of opportunities in: what I shoot, how I shoot, even when I shoot. Now, I don't mind EVF's or LCD's or whatever manner of shitty, digital viewing device- long as the end results are sound. I've learned to sacrifice process for result. And I'm no longer thinking strictly B&W, which when lovingly and properly accounted for takes hours days in post. I now have more years behind me than ahead, already have more than enough B&W files yet to edit, and color post can be done in less than an hour. The latter is freaking... amazing! I haven't given up on B&W (analog, or digital, for that matter), but so far, color's been a kick- a nice change of pace I can live with after 40yrs of strict monochrome. 

Photo: © S. Banos

So when the XT-1 went on sale for $800- I was lucky to have the funds to grab one. Still the best looking digital camera ever made! Anywho, was putting it through the paces at the first of San Francisco's two annual Leather Fairs. And while it still delivers solid results, there were two other things I noticed straight off. The cute as hell 28mm(e) lens is like a freakin' wet fish, in that it has nothing solid and static to grab on to when placing or removing it on the camera body- a true major pain in the ass when in the field covering a fast moving event. I longed for the solid, knurled metal ring on manual Nikkors- instead, I was reminded of the frustration of handling screw mount lenses when they would fail to catch and endlessly go round and round and...

Photo: © S. Banos

The second thing was the ease in which the shooting mode dial could be accidentally moved- that desperately needs to be locked in, just like the ISO dial! It is that major bit of a nuisance that led to a most interesting bit of a lark... Twice, the dial moved to Advanced Setting which (I later discovered) was factory set to the Toy Filter, which basically consists of a very warm filter in conjunction with some very serious vignetting. Yeah, it's a pretty severe look- not one you would involuntarily volunteer for. Now, the chance of it accidentally happening for the one shot it would be most suited for is crazy enough... the chance of it happening twice, on two separate occasions, for the exact two shots it was most suited for is... absolutely insane! But that's exactly what happened- and I've now used up whatever negligible amount of luck I may have had for the rest of my life. Case closed.

I did ease up on said Toy Filter effect in post for the final product, but you can still see the effect to considerable extent- and I must say it does lend a nice feel to these two particular images, serving to soften and isolate the main subjects from the environment at hand. Weird... just plain, all out, freakin' Weird!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Of Smiles And Mysteries

As I've previously and unequivocally stated, I can't stand pictures with smiling people. So as I peered through the microscopic rear view mirror of my GR as best my non existent, close up vision now possibly allows, and lined up the composition at the corners- I just prayed that everything else would magically fall into place- pretty much the usual formula I've been using for the last year and a half with fairly decent results, though certainly not one I would recommend.

And when I finally glanced upon the recorded image, I was pleased to see the composition sound... only there it was- the killer nail right smack front and center, a smiley face! Almost deleted it right there and then, but decided to save it if only as an aside- besides, a coupla beers awaited.*

Once home, I opened it anew, and there before me sat a man both regal and unbroken, a man who probably has more to complain about in one day than I do my whole life... and he's giving me, a total stranger standing in traffic and asking a favor, his unconditional approval- who am I to deny the world (t)his happy, triumphant moment in all its vibrancy?

Photo: © S. Banos

*As for the mystery as to why I've been getting as many shots recently on Fri early eves on my foray to and from the local pub- it finally struck me, not that hard to figure really... This 3 square block section of town in SF sees perhaps the widest gamut of socio-economic disparity imaginable in the western world at any given time on any given day. On Friday quitting time, it's as if they're all unleashed in one mad, mutual tsunami: the homeless trying (in vain) to hit up whoever catches their eye, junkies shooting up in plain view while others walk about alternately conversing, laughing, then arguing with... themselves- and The Hi-Tech Haves rush and zig-zag about in the most desperate dance of all, trying to board their Ubers before having to acknowledge any one of 'em; all this and more in the most dramatic Golden Hour light imaginable. So yeah, come to think of it, the time can be rife with possibility...

Friday, July 28, 2017

B&W in Color

Photo: © S. Banos

NO, no, no- not gonna go there: B&W vs. color, digital vs. analog, Coke vs. Pepsi, etc, etc... Fool's errand each and every one. Just gonna point out two instances in which the prescribed and obvious choice is... not necessarily the best. A coupla years ago I was honored to have the photo below selected for Random Excellence over at The Online Photographer. Someone immediately pointed out that it failed because it should have been in color. And it certainly would have been colorful at that, with the Red, White and Blue and... just about everything else thrown in for good measure- exactly why I was happy to see it in monochrome, putting everything in equal measure, without the circus kaleidoscope of color.

Meanwhile, everyone knows that repetitive graphics and geometric patterns and shadows are the inherent domain of B&W. It's the sensuous, yet subdued, color however that most definitely brings the square format photo above to life, in what would have otherwise made for a most pedestrian exercise in B&W 101.  

Photo: © S. Banos

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Lesson Learned?

Photo: © S. Banos

This summer, a most alarming intriguing precedent has been set. One I'm not quite sure what to make of or construe. Weekend after weekend I take my lengthy afternoon constitutional(s)- only to return to the hearth with absolute nada to show for said excursions. Meanwhile, my short promenade to and from the local pub on early Friday eves have been producing much more discernible results.

The conclusion has become rather obvious: drink more, try less...

Photo: © S. Banos

Photo: © S. Banos

Photo: © S. Banos

Photo: © S. Banos

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.