Friday, March 23, 2018

Benign Coincidence...

Photo: © Stan Banos

So I'm checking out Blake Andrew's blog as I'm oft wont to do on occasion, and click on his link to Josef Chladek's photobook website- which is quite fun, as you can well suss out for yourself. And the very first book I serendipitously clicked upon and examined on his magical bookshelf, Sorry For Damage Done by Vincent Wittenberg and Wladimir Manshanden, was delightfully relevant to what I'm currently starting to amass...

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

How Much Worse...

Can things possibly get? Actually, quite a bit! Thoughtful synopsis on past, present and... possible future.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Oh, Donny Boy! A Meditation

You can do this Donny- U the Man! U got the power, the power supreme... Show the world who is Boss of Bosses. Mueller is nothing, no one next to U! Light him up- show him the door, and rid yourself of this most ungrateful of parasites once and for all. Some may yell in envy, but they'll quickly respect the beauty of your power! In a week, no one will even remember his name! And you'll be home free, right as rain- to do as you damn well please, as you've always done, as you were meant to do...

Now's the time, Donny Boy- now's the time... Do it.
Unleash The Hounds Of Hell!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Words I've Been Long Longing To Hear...

Someone with name brand recognition finally spoke up- 
directly, forcefully, no holds barred... this is how you deal with a tyrant!!!

America has no doubt been wounded by the grievous corruption this most self congratulatory of oligarchs has incorporated and disseminated throughout the ranks. Our "democracy" has always been the most imperfect and fragile of institutions, but we cannot allow whatever good the long, turbulent decades have achieved to be dismantled piecemeal by the venal policies of a bloated juvenile brute and his minions. 

I had thought America's bromance with cluelessness had long been left behind in the aughts, instead it has reemerged with a particularly virulent strain of hostility and vindictiveness, while foreign powers have been allowed to poison the waters from... within. These are uniquely troubling times, times as such that someone considerably left of center gleefully welcomes and applauds the exclamations of a former, unrepentant CIA Chief! 

Fortunately, Trump has enthusiastically derided, belittled and turned our country's main intelligence and law enforcement agencies against him. The massive, unrepentant ego, buttressed by a phalanx of law evading lawyers, that has allowed him to escape repeated, ongoing criminal activity undeterred throughout his career in the private sector will finally meet its match in this particular game of thrones- a game where the outcome will not be decided by the magnitude of his bluff.

Friday, March 16, 2018


Photo: © Stan Banos

Scientists tend to be pretty conservative folks, that is, irrespective of politics, they're not exactly prone to making wild, outlandish statements without ample evidence to back up that of which they speak- and even then they tend to be overly cautious. A lotta people think that scientists put out the most extreme versions of climate change imaginable, and truth is, they are pretty tame in the general assessments of the future that they make public.

Personally, and I'm not the only one- I think this downplaying of what may possibly (ie- most probably?) happen does no one any good. It lulls us into complacency- uhhh... it may get bad, then again... it may not. Couple that with the absolute naysayer deniers, and it's small wonder why what should be The Number One Issue the world over is currently such small potatoes.

Raising sea levels mean more currently inhabited land will be underwater, hence more competition (ie- conflict... WARS- GODDAMNIT!) for remaining lands and resources- not to mention desertification of other vast swaths of arable land, etc, etc... I don't have kids, the wife and I will be outta here soon enough- but damn, I just don't get these Conservatives (the ultimate irony of ironies when it comes to nomenclature) who don't give a flying about the future- if only for their kids...

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Rejection: A Stalwart's Guide

Part of overall series (not submitted).        Photo: © Stan Banos

Years past I would sometimes enter competitions hoping maybe (just maybe) I'd get lucky, maybe enough of the other contestants were sick, on vacation, mistook the entry closing date- whatever. And... I... just... might... be able... to sneak... in! Of course, there's no such luck, but as the years passed and turned to decades and I created and amassed more and more work, I was able to learn from my mistakes, hone my photographs into more formidable essays, eliminate the wheat from the chaff and submit a portfolio of photographs each and every one of which could stand on its own two feet. 

Well, that kinda took care of the... quality, but not so much... the content. Previously, whenever I summoned the courage to show my portfolio in person (eg- Mardi Gras, Pet Cemeteries, etc) it would follow a fairly predictable routine. The editor, curator, gallerist would smile, rub their chin, and wave fellow office workers to look at the work. Pretty soon you had everyone including the interns gathered round the table discussing the individual photos and then reminiscing about their own personal tales and experiences. After a while the chuckles and tales of present and yore would die down, everyone would return to their posts and I would be left alone with the decider in chief who would (very) curtly thank me for bringing in the work as his demeanor resumed its staunch business solemnity. It was all well and fun, but... photography is a serious business- and who would be even the least bit interested in those kinds of photos!?!?!?

Nevertheless, hope springs eternal, and I was feeling pretty damn good about the strength and cohesiveness of the twenty photos I was submitting to The New York Times Portfolio Review 2018. Surely, after several years of trying they'd finally have one wee slot to fill with some fairly well envisioned humor... Forget fifteen, I ain't greedy- I'll settle for FIVE minutes!

Alas, yet another rejection notice deluxe. Not entirely unexpected at this point, to say the least; but at this point, the kill shot is- hey, this-is-the-best-I-got... will ever get. No, it sure ain't work that'll save the world- and god bless those that do and continue to do that work. SERIOUSLY! But, I also think (and have witnessed how) we could also use a laugh here or there along the way...

Anyway, for your personal perusal, and unabated acclamation and criticism as per the custom it has become here- below are the rejected but unbowed twenty (some seen, some new): relax, enjoy, take a load off...

All Photos: © Stan Banos

All Photos: © Stan Banos

Friday, March 9, 2018

On The Frontline

I'm in middle of reading/viewing On The Frontline by Susan Meiselas, in particular, the parts concerning Nicaragua and El Salvador. And I found it somewhat disconcerting, since when I initially got her book Nicaragua back in '81, I was most struck by the immediacy of her work. There was a sense of intimacy both with her subjects and her subject matter- the guerillas and the revolution, respectively. I imagined her at their meetings in secret enclaves both within the city walls and rural mountain outposts, bearing witness to the planning of the battles to follow. I imagined her following closely by as they trained, prepared, and ambushed a ruthless enemy- their official revolutionary documentarian.

So I was quite surprised to read how she was, in fact, quite the outsider, never knowing when or where the next skirmish would ensue, never being truly accepted as one of them. Not privy to their plans (how could she), she was constantly following rumors, forever relying on luck and intuition. Despite that reality, despite that most obvious divide, she was still able to convey that behind the scenes sense of presence and proximity.

Photography can be a funny thing, anyone who's done it long enough knows that one can take individual pictures that can be as misleading, as they are revealing. We know this. But despite being held at arm's length, there was a particularly genuine sense of authenticity throughout Nicaragua- somehow, someway Meiselas was able to draw us into that conflict, and not only engage us in the chaos and turmoil thousands of miles away, but also provide a modicum of insight as to what it was also like to be an ordinary citizen simply trying not to be the next person killed...

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Ignorance We Inherit

  Photo: © Oliver Clasper

A while back on PetaPixel (before I was officially banned from the site), there was a considerable controversy about a photograph that alluded to lynching being used to advertise something or other. A lot of the commenters said, so what if it did- after all, lynching was an equal opportunity killer in the good ol' US of A. Now, PetaPixel is not always known for its insightfully intellectual banter- and it was on just such an occasion that I found myself compelled to comment just to try and set some semblance of the record straight. No, Whites and Blacks were not lynched in equal numbers, they were not even lynched in equal manner! And yet, despite the long trail of undeniable fact and history- they left the conversation with... whatever they wanted to believe (ie- in denial). Which not only explains why they remain ignorant (and racist), but also why we now have he who personifies both ignorance, and arrogance, currently occupying The West Wing.

Not unlike Eva Leitolf's Looking For Evidence, Oliver Clasper's The Spaces We Inherit brings that history home to present day America; it's rather banal photographic presentations of horrific racial crime sites is a thoughtful, reflective follow up to the haunting Without Sanctuary, the collected photographic history of an America so vigorously denied, buried and revised.

Friday, March 2, 2018

The Opioid Contradictions

Photo: James Nachtwey

Decades past, it used to be Black and Brown people in inner cities, now it's majority White people- all over the country, from rural enclaves to small towns and major cities. The opioid epidemic is, well- just that. Even Ultra-Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh was addicted to OxyContin (often deploying his Hispanic maid to make the pick ups to avoid detection), and President Trump has ceremoniously declared the current US opioid problem a "National Health Emergency," but has not funded a single dollar more to help combat or alleviate it- despite the fact that it continues to worsen and intensify. Rush, a vocal proponent of punishment for drug abusers (who also lost his hearing  due to his opioid abuse), never saw jail time- and I've yet to hear of any contributions from the multimillionaire to any drug rehab program.

Anyway... TIME magazine has (for the first time in its history) assigned one photographer to cover its lead and only story in its current issue. It would be well worth looking at if only to see this master photographer do what he does best, but it is particularly well worth reading and contemplating both the images and information concerning the enormity and magnitude of this very human catastrophe. 

I chose the photograph above simply because it is a block I rather cautiously traverse (to avoid stepping on discarded needles) almost every day on the way to work- what you see above is a daily, ongoing scenario. Of course, Mr. Limbaugh would never ever equate himself with any of these unfortunates. His money bought his way out of jail, bought his way out of permanent deafness, bought his way out of the pain and public degradation that most addicts unlike himself have had to endure...

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Margins of Excess

Max Pinckers Margins Of Excess looks like a truly fascinating book, I've never seen it in person- and with that price tag I'll probably never own it... but it sure does look interesting! Afar from a monograph photo book as one can possibly get- but certainly down with the "you can't make it up" vibe that I most certainly treasure...

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Insult

I most certainly needed a score card to differentiate the players, but the distrust and animosity between Lebanese Christians and Palestinians is both real and palpable. As the title alludes to, an insult sets off the sparks to follow in this well crafted yarn. Fortunately, the violence is held to a minimum, despite this area's powder keg history of volatility; in fact, this is largely a court room drama par excellence!

The plot unfolds around two hot heads on either side, each as stubborn and confrontational as the other. There is no good guy/bad guy scenario, while they both act the jerk, we gradually, methodically discover why they both came to be the hard heads they presently are- and one can hardly blame them...

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Time Out...

'Cause we could all use one- Reality is just waaay hard!        Photo: © S. Banos

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Gun Safety 101!

PS- I just somehow, someway erased my entire post on this subject, just trying to add this cartoon... and thing is- it says everything I tried to, only so much better!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Two For One...

Photo: © S. Banos

Oft has been the time when I've spent the entirety of the most beautiful of days imaginable: searching, begging, pleading for one, just one half way decent photo- how can one not come home with at least one small morsel of success from such a god send of a day!?

Well, if you're me- it's pretty damn easy, and pretty damn often- and all the hoping, wishing and a tryin' just don't add up to the smallest hill of beans. So...  ya suck it up, rub your dogs- and wait for the next day, and the day after that...

The other weekend after doing some long overdue housework, I managed to steal an afternoon hour for a short promenade and a stogie through the neighborhood. Coming upon a uniquely bedecked bus stop, I realized that if it had any chance, I'd need my 21mm equivalent on my X-T1, not the 28mm equivalent I had on my ever present GR. So I speed walked home, retrieved the X-T1, called and arranged for a model to meet there, and returned within the half hour- knowing full well that such second chance return trips are rarely successful in photodom- the light fails, the original subject matter has either changed (and not in a good way), or is completely absent. 

This time however, the gods smiled down and threw in the very complementary (and as it turned out, very necessary) human element; and on the way home- was serendipitously treated to the image below! Again, we're not talking Pulitzer Prize Winners, but the kinda images that'll keep me happy till then- the kind that should happen all the freakin' time...
Photo: © S. Banos

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Mark E. Smith- RIP

As memory serves, my then girlfriend (Hi, Sharyn!) introduced me to The Fall back in '80 or so when the world was considerably younger. And Mark E. Smith, the founder and lead singer, appeared very much the antithesis of a rock star- more like a slight 14 yr old public (ie- private) school student in button down shirt and suit jacket uniform from Thatcher England. Not quite the swooning or bad ass rocker one would assume, but a skinny nerd (albeit one you wouldn't turn your back on)  who just stood stoically beside his mike onstage literally rifling through seemingly random 8X11 loose leaf pages searching for lyrics to mouth. Huh!? And one would hardly call it singing- more of the Dean Martin/Leonard Cohen school of talk/sing, except less melodic, more snarly. Think Army Captain in the midst of a battle's mayhem, barking out orders to those still left alive and somehow able to fight on. In fact, many of The Fall's songs sound very much the inspirational battle march featuring strong, unrelenting repetitive bass lines that would at times fall into a controlled chaos, only to be resurrected again only stronger and more unrelenting...

The years were not kind to Mr. Smith, or more rightly, he was not very kind to himself (nor to anyone else for that matter)- alcohol, cigarettes and whatever else took an unrelenting toll as the boy like demeanor quickly dissolved into a mass of premature wrinkles and eye bags embodied within a stooped, uneven posture. Hank Williams died at 30 looking every bit 60, Mark E. Smith died at 60, looking a very worn 80. His body of work however remains strident and unbowed: eclectic, rhythmic, against the grain...

Friday, February 2, 2018

Joe Frank- RIP

Joe Frank passed this January, he escaped The Holocaust and managed to overcome a number of very serious, longstanding medical conditions, among them: surviving a kidney transplant courtesy of a cousin who then... presented him with the bill! His voice had this singularly mesmerizing quality that he often combined with a rhythmic, minimalist soundtrack which rendered his storytelling into a near hypnotic transience. It simultaneously relaxed and induced a state of intense concentration, probably as close to a drug experience as one could possibly conjure solely through a radio and the spoken word. It's interesting to hear how so many of his fans had the very same reaction (as me) when first stumbling upon his program on the airwaves, mainly- "What the hell is this?" A weird mixture of: humor, pain, confession and... surreal genius.

He had a way of speaking directly to you, and despite you- his narrative was an entity unto itself, encountering, interpreting and reacting to the various stimuli it confronts each and every day, from the miscellaneous to the life altering. Human relationships, particularly those between the sexes were always more intricately and inexorably complicated than they appeared. And Joe would silently revel in all their complexities, large and small, making his wry observations, offering little solution and often making it all the more problematic- only to continue the journey one more time...

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Some Of This, Not Much Of That...

Interestingly, have been quite the "prolific" for this early in the year- well, relatively speaking. No Pulitzer Prize winning achievements mind ya, but getting anything 'round this time is pretty unusual, least for me... Random shots here and there have been popping up on a freakishly consistent basis (as opposed to the usual Biblical drought). Most, but not all, falling into my "Squared" collection. 

When the Women's March rolled around, I was ready for... the more "serious stuff!" Had my used, recently purchased X-T1 in hand along with my original (with 20 and 28mm equivalents), surrounded by thousands- got one photo for my 4 1/2 hours afoot. Sheesh! Oh, well- still got a ton of B&W scans and restorations to attend to. Meanwhile:

Photo: © S. Banos

Photo: © S. Banos

Photo: © S. Banos