Thursday, January 17, 2019

GAS Bag- The Domke F-803

Although the ever serious grown up who'd much rather "concentrate on the photo," I'm occasionally not completely immune to the occasional child like, carnal bout of GAS. Not privy to the big $$$ necessary to "update" with each and every yearly camera model, I learned to moderate my primal urges going back to the analog days on things like: soft shutter releases, eye cups, straps, maybe even going hog wild with a hand grip! But second only to the camera itself is... the camera bag- been through a few, and have just moved in with my new, true blue, lady friend for life!

Back in the day before the mid '70s there was literally... like nothing, save for: all manner of military styled shoulder bags, "Danish school" bags, even fishing bags- you either threw everything loose into the stew pot and hoped it all still worked when dug out, or individually packed everything in separate cases and hoped your photo hadn't walked away by the time you unpacked. Then came the Domke- Hallelujah... sanity had finally arrived!!! Bags specifically designed for photographers, by a photographer- can't go wrong with one even today, when there are even more bag styles than camera models. 

Considerably more handsome in person!
In the past few years I've gone through several Domke styles and beyond, including a Manhattan Portage Small DJ bag (with added camera insert, when not used as my everyday work bag), and a Crumpler $6 Million Dollar Bag (1st version) that is downright luxurious for everything but the kitchen sink. But I've downsized in the latter years, and truth be told- the DJ bag does me fine in most cases, but yeah... the GAS! So I looked about to see what was currently available- and found the current love of my life!

Bags are as individual to your needs, as cameras themselves- even more so. Basically, I wanted something for travel, something that holds: my X-T1 with two extra lenses (tiny primes save for the 14mm), an iPad Mini, my GR, a coupla "accessories" (and a bottle of water and/or small brolly, if necessary). This rather handsome, capable fellow first caught my eye, but I'm now partial to flatter, less boxy styles- thinner bags can comfortably rest flat across the small of your back, conveniently out of the way until you slide it to your side when needed. Boxier types tend to bounce and bang incessantly against your hip and waist- not fun! Which is when I noticed the Domke F-803;* they come in various color and material scenarios, and for whatever reason, I chose the most unsightly (and cheapest) of the lot, the appropriately named Drab Green- and was fully prepared to return it post haste upon first sight and arrival.

Fortunately, my suspicion proved me right, the actual shade of green is nowhere near as hideous as any of the online photos, and the strap is an appealingly browner shade that offsets it nicely- handsome and inconspicuous! It's the perfect size (big honking FF DSLR's need not apply), wonderfully light, very sturdily constructed (large inner compartment retains its shape, two inner front pockets expand), but does have one caveat- it is thinly padded, and the small, provided insert is crap personified and meant for... a lens! Got me a pair of scissors, cut one side of the insert vertically, velcroed it across the rear of the bag (don't need padding on side facing front of bag); cannibalized a few excess parts of the insert I bought for the DJ bag (you can get full camera bag inserts from Amazon for $20 and under) and with a bit of duct tape padded the bottom and sides of the bag- Voila! Or, get the official Domke insert for $40 (which is pretty flimsy at that). 

Lastly, there are those who'll probably insist it be able to stand vertically when placed down, but because it is so marvelously slender, it does tend to lean/fall over on its front side- so just set flat on its back... a possible deal breaker for some, an eye roll of a concern for yours truly!

Protection, looks, room- GAS crisis alleviated, then some! Now, all that's needed is a road trip minus a hurricane...

*The F-802 is the same exact style, except considerably larger- and cheaper... yeah, go figure!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Brenda Ann Kenneally

Photo: Brenda Ann Kenneally

Want to lose yourself for a few... hours in some of the best portrait and social documentary photography being done by anyone, anywhere for the last coupla decades?  

Brenda Ann Kenneally is the name, one I'm surprised you don't hear more often, and mentioned with the very same reverence as other greats in the journalism/documentary field; perhaps because she's too busy churning out so much incredibly relevant work- portraiture, "street photography," reportage. Keneally does not blink at life's "uglier" side, as she unflinchingly observes and so beautifully documents the devastating reality of this turn of the century, a time not unlike the hundred years prior that also saw divergent populations of tumultuous economic and social disparity. And if you (like I) wondered how she has such a keen rapport with the subject matter she photographs- it is, at least in part, because she is no stranger to the "lifestyle" herself.

This is the kind of photographer that makes me shrivel in embarrassment to be caught anywhere near a camera- 
No one should be this good!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Don't Give Up!

"Don't give up. Don't allow it to happen. If there's a concrete wall in front of you, go through it, go over it, go around it, but get to the other side of that wall. 
 -Donald J. Trump

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Even A Genius Can Be Dumb As Shit!

James Watson was one of three scientists awarded the Nobel Prize for discovering the Double Helix structure* that contains our genetic information (ie- DNA). But I was watching Decoding Watson mainly to find out just what kind of man, and racist he is. Is he a full throttle Alt-Right White Nationalist, or more your casual, all around good ol' boy? Well, the first seventy minutes is spent fleshing out a rather likable and amusing contrarian of a persona- it took the last twenty minutes to find out that he was indeed the latter version. But here's the thing- this brilliant and innovative thinker, who pledges his heart, soul and mind to science writ large has no problem thinking Blacks (and I kinda doubt he'd hesitate throwing in your "Browns") intellectually inferior simply because... that's just the way things are!

Yup, this great "scientific mind," who lives and dies by the scientific principle, has no problem stating that if you need actual definitive "proof" as to the intellectual inferiority of Blacks- "just ask any employer." Unquestionable, irrefutable, incontrovertible evidence par excellence! And yeah, it's in their genes, and uhhhh.... IQ tests too.

It doesn't matter that there is NO definitive scientific research or study anywhere that "proves" that any "race" is genetically inferior, or superior in regards to intelligence. And no, The Bell Curve didn't come anywhere near the general orbit of "science." As a geneticist, Watson refuses to consider the role of nurture or environment, forget about considering how obviously polarized Black and White communities are in America. Can you imagine Dr. Watson's IQ score on a test biased towards the lexicon and societal norms of inner city USA? Can you imagine Dr. Watson's IQ score had he been raised in your typical US inner city environment consisting of a home: often on or adjacent to a toxic, polluted, land fill or active industry; built with toxic, dilapidated building materials; in the middle of a healthy food desert; surrounded by inadequate/non-existent health care, substandard schools and near zero employment/economic opportunities? No, neither can Dr. Watson, the very thought of which has never entered his pristine genius of a mind... that's just the way things are.

*It should have been shared with yet a fourth person- it was her remarkable catalyst of a contribution that made possible their very breakthrough (but, ya know... a woman).

Thursday, January 3, 2019

But How Can They Keep It Secret!?!?

What better way to start the new year than... UFO's! And one of the first things people will challenge you on (after they've finished laughing at you- and laughing some more) is... How can they keep something that BIG, secret for so... long? I mean, c'mon, everybody and their mama leaks!

Well, you just very actively (albeit unknowingly) participated in one of the core levels of maintaining said secrecy- the very level of ridicule and humiliation they have honed and disseminated to the point where it is now voluntary, enthusiastically and automatically practiced by a large portion of the public. Most people don't want to be laughed at as the tin foil, hat wearing believer of little green men... And More Importantly- some people just don't want to lose their jobs!

Seriously? That's All ya got? 

I suppose you want: a highly detailed, step by step breakdown of how our government can impose and sustain such a high level of secrecy on what is literally The-Biggest-Secret of all time- complete with names, dates and documentation...

Fine, how much time ya got? One can start (below) with the 4 hour condensed answer to all the above. Now some of you won't spare that time, you got bigger fish to fry, besides it's crazy, it's-all-made-up... Understood. And some will still refuse to consider it, even if they watch every second of it- their worldview will simply not allow it. Just as some to this day, simply refuse to believe this government program... Fortunately, I feel pretty comfortable in the quality of company I keep, eg- astronauts, commercial and military pilots, astrophysicists, radar operators, police officers, military personnel and other trained observers...


PS- Also included above, interesting and long rumored anecdote concerning Dr. Carl "The Cosmos" Sagan's UFO debunking origins- confirmed by named source in the astronomy community. Yeah, I could tell ya exactly where in the video, but what fun would that be?

Monday, December 31, 2018


VICE is THE BEST movie on politics Hollywood has ever made. It is one of of the best political movies ever made by anyone, anywhere, period. Run, go, see it...

That's pretty much all you need to know. And if you are in any way interested in history, politics, "justice," and power- it is a most definitive must see. Yes, it's entertaining, it's more than two hour length seems to fly right by; yes, it is funny- no small miracle when its protagonist is as unfunny as a human can possibly get. And yes, it does edify one as to what was happening, (more or less) right in front of our eyes. And without whacking one over the head, it doesn't gloss over the consequences of Dick Cheney's legacy- something we most obviously do need since we have yet to learn that lesson... A lesson and legacy that well continues on to this day!

What lesson is that? Well... Republicans at the time were quite fond of saying that "... we create our own reality." And how right they were... In what "reality," where you or I have ever lived does the person, who was carelessly and oh so callously shot in the face with a shotgun, apologize to his shooter?!? In what reality does anyone (over five) actually believe that you're going to build a multi-billion dollar wall, and that another country will pay for it?

Saturday, December 29, 2018

'18 Into '19

2018- let me count the ways in how you truly sucked! And 2019 bodes hardly better- if only for the very real fact that we've been scheduled to be irradiated 24/7 Morning, Noon and Night with High Frequency 5G Micro Wave Radiation from an antenna directly across the street from our apartment! That alone is enough to fuck up anyone's upcoming year life, period. And make NO doubt- they are coming to your backyard as well...

Photographically, I really tried to get my work out there this year, and having accomplished pretty much nothing for the effort- I'll just continue to slog on taking a photo here, there, wherever and whenever possible... same-as-always.

So what if anything does my anonymous and soon to be fully irradiated body have to look forward to? Two names, one you're familiar with, and one you will soon be: Robert Mueller and Letitia James!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Cloak JOKE!

How many of you bought/were gifted one of these major photographic wonders? Think of everything you can now accomplish with the one technological necessity whose absence has held you back from every major photographic aspiration you could possibly imagine- whether you know it, or not!

PS- I can't possibly think of one thing that could get your ass kicked more quickly or thoroughly- the very end result I'm assuming this thing was meant to prevent! In fact, I'm betting this cloak joke of a company closes shop soon after the irate family of the first user who ends up either in the hospital or the morgue ends up suing them Big Time...

Wednesday, December 19, 2018


From the opening credits, one senses they are in the knowing hands of a master story teller, film maker and B&W cinematographer. ROMA slowly unveils both the little moments that consume everyday lives, as well as as the larger ones that alter them altogether. It's told around the life of a Mexican domestic servant named Cleo, the kind prevalent throughout Latin/South American countries that speak to issues of class, culture and inequality. Lives that are lived both together, and apart, parallel existences that share more than those on top are willing to acknowledge or admit. It's... complicated.

The film is based on the director Alfonso CuarĂ³n's own youth and family life in Mexico City, and I found myself strongly connected to many of the scenes, while feeling oddly at distance with others (mostly with the rituals of "the haves," as in real life). And he goes about showing how these lives both vary and intersect with some of the most creative and beautiful usage of B&W cinematography, some of which could stand on its own as panoramic stills.

My favorite scene was when the wife and mother of the household returns home drunk and privately reveals to Cleo that no matter what anyone tells her- women are doomed to be alone in the world throughout their lives. Or as John Lennon once said in song, "Woman is the slave of a slave."

Monday, December 17, 2018

Ghosts In The Night

Photo: © Stan Banos

Evening comes early these days, as I took this photo on my way home from work with the last remaining vestiges of light. A depressing but hardly uncommon sight here in San Francisco. He would slowly crawl, stop and repeat in ritual manner- yet another, homeless, mentally ill, drug addled denizen living off our city's streets. 

And yet, what really shook me that evening was the person I'd meet but two blocks later. A young White female, neatly attired for work and talking endlessly, as many a person her age does on their phone to friends, family, business associates- but as we drew closer about to walk past each other, it became obvious there was no phone, no earphones... no nothin'. She wasn't babbling, in fact, her "conversation" seemed quite incisive and level headed, as she continued to expound her position on the matter at hand- if only someone had been on the receiving end. Standing stationary before me, I considered asking, "Excuse me?" To what end, I wasn't sure. But as I briefly contemplated that interaction, it became evident she was looking right through me, and well beyond me. Walking around her on a narrow neighborhood sidewalk, curiosity eventually prevailed, as I turned to watch her eventually talk her way down the descending street...

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Lord, Send Us A Sign... Why Didn't Vivian Make (Exhibition Quality) Prints?

There are those that would have us believe that Vivian Maier did not want her work seen in public in any way, under any circumstances- that's clearly why she didn't make (or have made) any proper, exhibition quality prints during her lifetime. Perhaps.

I think a very strong argument can be made that she didn't want her private life made public, but as for the work itself... I don't think we'll ever really know. But I can say this: The vast majority of photographers make decisions and compromises throughout their lives that revolve around their financial situations. Vivian Maier was far from destitute most her life, although she had obviously fallen on hard times towards the end. She had a Rollieflex, a Leica; at times, she even went on European and Asian vacations. To make that a reality, she lived quite frugally most of her life on a very modest income and equally modest living accommodations (that in turn, did not accommodate space for a darkroom).

I know what that's like, I've lived a comparable life. I have (decent) camera equipment, I've gone on European vacations- outwardly I appear "middle class," despite the fact that I live in a 1BR apt with my wonderful wife, do not own a car (never have) and do not have, could not afford and (fortunately) never wanted children. I'm certainly not in any way poor, neither am I "Middle Class." And although not quite there yet, without a pension or any kind or substantial nest egg, it's certainly not unimaginable that I too could share much the same fate in my final years...

Photo: Vivian Maier (taken in Puerto Rico)

What I'm trying to say is that we all make sacrifices, we all make compromises. When I came into a wee bit o' money a couple of years ago, I could've gone hog wild and bought me a digital M. Instead, I bought an X-T1 at half the price of the then brand new X-T2, a couple of lenses, saved a little for vacation, and... at long last, finally had some prints made- being without a darkroom since 2002, I could count on one hand the number of inkjets I could afford since. Today, I have around thirty beautiful and reasonably priced color prints, a dozen B&W inkjets, and aim to slowly increase those numbers as finances permit.

If your commercial printer* is competent, the quality of your prints now relies on the quality of your digital files. That wasn't the case in the analog days of yore; before I had a temporary darkroom going, I (and other serious photo enthusiasts) would take our negs to Modern Age Gallery in NYC; while they did have a small gallery space- they were primarily a custom printing service. They had three levels of service: a straight print, a "customized" print, and the top of the notch Custom Print. The latter reached three figures even back in the early 70's and was prohibitively expensive, so I would save up my pennies for the medium package- end up disappointed each time, and promptly stopped. While better than drug store prints, they never came close to what you wanted or imagined- and even when able to afford their top of the line just once, it still fell well short of what I could eventually achieve. Point is- ya needed THE BIG BUCKS DELUXE for made to order portfolio prints back then. 

Vivian was eccentric- but hardly stupid; I made the same sacrifice, made the same logical choices and concessions that she did- go for the gusto, and get the images in the can, while-you-can... One doesn't get a second chance at youth! Worry about displaying the evidence of a life well lived later on, in what will hopefully (hopefully) be more abundant and comfortable times to come (one can still dream a future worth living while young). Sometimes, it even works out, sometimes...

Now, how on earth was she able to sharpen her eye and improve her shooting skills without the crucial feedback provided by decent quality prints (particularly in the '50s when she hit her stride)? That is the question well worth asking, and one that rightly adds to the Maier mystique!

BTW- One final thought, could you see dear ol' Vivian making prints in a... communal darkroom? Yeah, neither can I!  

*We literally do not have room for a printer in our apt.

Monday, December 10, 2018

SONY End Of Year Give-Away... Act Now!!!

Photo: © Stan Banos

Too late- Ya snooze, ya lose! SONY No Baloney came though Big Time with the best promo ad campaign imaginable, combining: winning color and set design, imaginative graphics and an ingenious use of social media...

Friday, December 7, 2018

Ever Tell Ya How Much I Hate, Hate, Hate...

Guys standing around photo gallery openings with pristine Leicas hanging off their shoulders and around their necks? We get it- You-are-a-serious-photographer! Serious...

PS- Now that you I mention it, I have never, ever seen a woman doing that!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Gotta Give It To The... French!

Photo: Veronique de Viguerie

When their government fucks up- they hit the streets en masse and let it be known! Right or wrong- none of the sheep like, wait till elections, take it on the chin behavior ya get here...

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Van Gogh (in the 1950's)

Photo: Vivian Maier

Recently, I had a bit of a conversation with another photographer (mostly on his blog after commenting on mine) concerning Vivian Maier. Now, not gonna get into the particulars, but let's just say it was a might spirited, which I quite enjoy and hoped to further, when it suddenly turned... downright awnry and personal- amusing I thought, since, if anyone, I'm the guy that's supposed to fit the stereotypical, hot blooded Latino not quite in control of their emotions. Continuing to play against type, I wished him a happy (holi)day, and went on my merry way...

One of the more pleasant side effects of the whole exchange was that I once again immersed myself in Maier world, not a bad place to be far as I'm concerned since I am absolutely captivated by her photography, particularly from the mid fifties to the early sixties when she seemed at the very peak of her artistry shooting at least a (12 exp) roll a day. It was interesting to learn from Pamela Bannos (what an intriguing... last name) that Maier obtained her Rolleiflex in '51, followed by a dearth of photographs far as '52 was concerned, then... BOOM- from '53 on, she was photographing with the confidence and refined eye of a master!

Then there's the idiot London gallerist who declared that Maier was "a good student," not a true artist, because "she didn't take her photography anyplace new." Her work was... derivative. Well, I hear what he's saying, but ask yourself this- how many photographers other than Frank, and perhaps Klein, were taking photography anyplace "new" in the fifties? Most "masters" of that time (eg- Eugene Smith) were simply busy refining photography as it existed into the language that would be the very basis from what others would then later diversify and diverge from. The early sixties saw the development and refinement of visions that would produce the names of Arbus, Winogrand, Friedlander, etc in... the mid- Sixties. And that said, one can see in the wide variety of her work, many of the themes that anticipated much of what those names proceeded to concentrate on...

Maier continued to photograph (and film) for many years hence, but at least, from what we've seen thus far, her creative zenith seems well entrenched in that mid-fifties/early-sixties stretch. And I for one, will be forever more than a tad grateful that her work was salvaged from oblivion at the eleventh hour...

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Post Holiday Musings...

 Yet, another repeated "holdout" I finally nabbed during recent holiday (and consequently sucked of all life by Blogger software)...  
Photo: © Stan Banos

In addition to taking a couple of snaps during the Thanksgiving holiday, I was finally able to catch up on a few things (the rain helped) and even had a bit o' leisure time to myself. As a kid, I a had  a fascination with slot cars (HO and 1/24 scale), I even built one of the latter from scratch, even though I didn't have the proper tools- didn't win any prizes for speed or looks, but it ran alright. Then in the '90s, I noticed they opened a major track right in Manhattan; tempted as I was, I never visited- did not want to risk yet another addiction (repeat or otherwise). Don't recall how I stumbled unto this video- but my, how things have, uh... "progressed." They were pretty freaking fast in my day, but this-is-plain-clear- Insane!!! 

Another childhood preoccupation I imbibed was my utter fascination with... tanks! Several of these online videos put out by The Tank Museum feature these rather curiously unique personalities leading the tour of their personal faves- all of which, in turn, have their... various and very distinct personalities. 

Sunday, November 25, 2018

On Monuments...

Well, it has to be more than just a silly ol' plaque- I know, let's put it inside this giant sized rock, and then, and then, put a statue right on top of it and, and a flagpole... on either side!!!

Upon first visiting Golden Gate Park back in 1989, I happened upon this rather curious, if not outright comical conglomeration of a monument right off the park's main drag located in this small, secluded, sunken meadow. For all it's tranquil, idyllic loveliness however, no one ever seems to venture into it. Of course, I had to have a look see, was humbly taken with the site and its forever young and noble resident, but could not get a decent angle to take a photo that I thought paid it justice. I've tried several times since in the intervening years, but always came up short, and pretty much resigned myself to the fact that it would forever remain one of those things that just had to be experienced, period. Fortunately, that all changed this past holiday weekend when we had a break in some desperately needed rain that finally quashed CA's biggest fire in history and scrubbed San Francsico's air clean, and the light really played to its favor (which Blogger software rather successfully flattens and obliterates).

A short walk away from that most curious of landmarks lies one that is... stranger still- an irregularly shaped monolith with hundreds of names carved into it dating back to WWI. This bizarrely shaped monument is also just off the main drag, but totally hidden in a forbiddingly dark thicket of trees. To this day I don't remember how I first came upon it. I've also been trying to get a decent shot of this most formidable "blob," and well, this too is perhaps the best I'll ever get. 

The latter was obviously a tribute to the area's fallen from WWI, but I purposely let the former doughboy monument (which looks like some kind of idealized elder boy scout) remain shrouded in mystery. Now that I've officially documented them, I did a little research- including brushing up on a very forgotten unknown piece of history post WWI.

Photos: © Stan Banos