Sunday, July 14, 2019

2 For The Road

Photo: © Stan Banos

Pride Day in SF is a deservedly festive occasion- but smiling, happy faces are not exactly my primo subject matter. So what was I doing prowling about the thousands gathered to celebrate? Well, whenever you have that many people swirling about in a human maelstrom, you always have the possibility for sideline photo ops that result indirectly from any such event. But after an hour and a half of pounding the pavement shoulder to shoulder in cordoned off and fenced in streets that treat people like cattle, force foot traffic at intersections to the speed of hardening cement, and effectively reduce the space and freedom for those serendipitous photo ops to occur- I was wrapping it up, head bowed, when... I caught those bright streaks of surreal balloonery exiting. So I pretty much stalked balloon guy for a block and a half, hoping one of a half dozen shots would amount to something- and I'm pretty happy with the resulting shot. Even at 1/1,000 of a second, it's not as sharp as the 14mm (21 equivalent) Fujinon can actually deliver, but decent enough considering he was walking away at near light speed as I struggled to keep up and compose on the fly.

Head held considerably higher, I then caught Mr. Astronaut serenading the departing crowds on their homeward journey... 

Photo: © Stan Banos

Friday, July 12, 2019


I'm not a big horror movie fan, not into waiting for things to jump outta the shadows for supposed chills and thrills- just-not-my-thing... And Midsommar is fortunately, not that kinda horror movie. For one thing, a lot of the horrible things that happen as the story unfolds happen off screen- although, yeah, you certainly get to see enough on. And not since The Innocents, does so much (like all) of the horror happen in broad daylight. But it does provide a nice creepy, and thoroughly discombobulating, alternative to the usual, oft repeated, horror genre- and pretty much reflects why I would be absolutely terrified downing a few innocent brews in a traditional German beer garden in the midst of celebratory Octoberfest. Yeah, this happens in Sweden, not Germany- but I think you get the gist in my case. 

And speaking of Sweden, just loved that they took a group selfie of their festivities with what else... a Hasselblad!

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Photography And Climate Change

Photo: © Stan Banos

While we've all seen plenty of photo essays documenting climate change, I haven't seen too many* articles on how photography itself will be affected by climate change. In the past few years, I've already had to cancel and/or curtail a couple of vacations due to extreme weather conditions- and I'm sure I'm not the only one (not to mention those who've actually lost their homes due to man made climate change). It used to be the wise choice to (whenever possible) take your vacation just before or after the crowds and heat of summer. Now, instead of the seasonal warming and cooling we'd normally experience, we go from extreme flooding, to extreme heat, to extreme storms... Repeat.

Of course, photographers worldwide will certainly continue to document the effects of said extremes. The ensuing increase in: droughts, fires, flooding, famines, and increased conflicts for diminishing arable and habitable land will provide plenty of... photo ops. But I'm also wondering how this will affect the very nature of photography itself as our lives and psyches adapt and change to such extreme changes in lifestyles. How will everyday people look upon reality based photography; how will they react viewing photos of the past that portrayed their subjects enjoying themselves year round in a world of relative ease, comfort and plenty? Will those who can engage in more escapist rituals, celebrations and activities (eg- Burning Man, cosplay, etc) as humanity tends to do in times of crisis? Will people use Instagram and other social platforms yet to be conceived not so much to display the artistry of their meals, but to convey the times and locations of where they can be had?

*(ie- zero)

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Seriously- Who Knew?

And that's why we have men of great intellect to run our country, men familiar with the not so everyday facts of history that made our country great and free. While we celebrated our origins "from sea to shiny sea" this July 4th, our POTUS stood tall amongst our brand spankin' new Sherman tanks, and never once had I ever realized how our forefathers risked their all to secure the airports in 1775 that ensured our victory (in a battle that wouldn't take place until... The War of 1812)- makes me wanna cry outta sheer... pride!

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Content, Context, Etc...

Photo: © Stan Banos

Now, I was previously aware that Hasidim did not believe in the establishment of an official Jewish homeland (ie- Israel) before the coming of the Messiah. Granted. But I never in my life thought that any of them would actually go out of their way to actively support the Palestinian cause. And yet here they were, not many to be sure, but present all the same, sporting pro-Palestinian signs and giving pro-Palestinian speeches- one while holding his infant son aloft! It kinda made one think that anything was possible...

Of course, the further irony in all this is that these Hasidim were not backing their Palestinian brothers because of some deep and fervent belief in the brotherhood of all men- but simply because of a Fundamentalist interpretation of a Biblical (Torahnic) declaration. Had the "prophesy" concluded that the Messiah would not come until the formation of a Jewish homeland- these same Hasidim would be just as rabidly anti-Palestinian (if not more so) as the Jewish counter protesters located just across the street...

Photo: © Stan Banos

Now, neither of these are particularly outstanding photos, but they do carry (especially the latter) their full measure of context. I came upon this scene as you see it- tense, but under control. I do not know what led to the eventual placement of handcuffs on this individual, but I'm guessing it got pretty crazed... considering the number of cops for one person, and the fact that a passerby warned me not to get too close (which of course, only encouraged me to do just that). 

But one can't help but look upon that scenario and reflect: 

1) How eerily reminiscent it is of a slave auction block. Flesh bared, head bowed and surrounded to the authority of an inexorable fate...

2) How about a literary interpretation via Hugo's Quasimodo- the "other" on public exhibit not as slave, but as a freak of nature?

3) These police were going out of their way to seem well composed, restrained, even respectful (least while I was there). Was this because this was happening in the heart of Times Square surrounded by hundreds thousands of tourist eyes? Would they have acted the same had this been Staten Island away from the public eye where Eric Garner was needlessly killed- over a couple of cigarettes by a legally outlawed police choke hold (the only person incarcerated, the person who filmed the murder)? 

Like they say, a photograph seldom answers anything...

Sunday, June 30, 2019

PetaPixel's Racist Washing Of Hands

PetaPixel has a long history of running posts that will produce the most predictable of racist reactions among its commentary, ie- ignorant (and some very purposeful) commenters promoting and disseminating false and inaccurate information about: history, race and racism in these United States, and elsewhere. In its most recent example, the author of a piece on cultural appropriation curiously predicted precisely how commenters would react to said charge- and they more than gladly obliged her, chomping at the bit to say, write and react exactly how and what she foretold. Imagine if they had instead engaged in a dialogue to reconsider and reexamine the very factors presented, how they originated, developed and propagated- instead of just feeding their knee jerk, fall back reactions.

Now most would argue that Michael Zhang is merely providing readers an opportunity for democratic discourse on topical photographic/social issues via a public forum, but when the topic/reaction scenario becomes so obviously routine (and negative) that it forms a predictable pattern, and the forum itself not as open or egalitarian as one may think- the motives and results can indeed become... questionable.

As previously stated, most of the the comments (on these topics) are overwhelmingly reactionary, and minority voices like mine, which try to provide some measure of fact and sanity over the distortions, misconceptions, and outright lies that are repeated incessantly in all their variations are subject to... banishment. Meanwhile, commenters who openly and consistently espouse misogynist, homophobic and racist rants are allowed to remain- no problem!

Yours truly was banned years ago, a British chap who would also challenge the prevailing ignorance in the Petapixel commentary (particularly on women's issues), would be regularly attacked in its commentary. He told me how Petpixel had attempted to ban him- until his FB followers rallied and managed to convince them otherwise. Which leads me to wonder- how many other Left leaning individuals ("social justice warriors-" yeah, that's a... "pejorative" term) have been silenced? And more importantly- how long will this clickbait charade of running "Liberal" subject matter continue, so that it can be routinely ridiculed and "discredited" in its biased commentary?

Friday, June 28, 2019

The Last Black Man in San Francisco

It's hard to distinguish if The Last Black Man in SF is a fairy tale based in reality, or reality based upon a fairy tale. The movie starts out with some delightful visuals before settling down to its basic story line which tangentially includes a whole lot of what is and has been going down in San Francisco. The main characters are far from the portrayals of young Black men you're used to seeing on the big screen, which in and of itself makes interesting viewing. 

The editing could have been tighter, and towards the end, the movie seemed as if it didn't quite know when to end- but in all fairness, that simply could have been because any sense of ventilation was absent in our theater, the air becoming increasingly hot, stagnant and oppressive, to the point I began anticipating a possible medical emergency situation (perhaps my own) any second...

Monday, June 24, 2019

Southern Sojourn

If only they had stopped there.     Photo: © Stan Banos

Determined to make the trip down South we couldn't make the year before, it started (for me) at home in NYC visiting my 92 year old mother. I've written enough about what I think of current NY, and my philosophy that I didn't leave NY, as much as NY left me. Sadly, two more of my personal remaining vestiges have now departed: Two Boots Pizza in The West Village (which I happily ran to for shelter and a slice in a sudden downpour, only to discover it shuttered) and The Great Jones Cafe, home to my Cajun Martinis and blackened catfish, sigh... Williamsburg is now completely gentrified, any mix and friction between old and new confined to memory only. I also ventured to my old teacher stomping grounds in Harlem; where Whites once feared to roam, they now walk about and live there quite comfortably. For new and "exciting," we are presently treated to... Vessel, a monumental monument of monumentous proportions that affords the monied elite who live around it the grand view of watching the minions below them walk endlessly about within its circle going nowhere. Perhaps a more appropriate name would have been... Metaphor.

Photo: © Stan Banos

Next stop, Washington DC- was about to take AMTRACK ($125) down when a good friend told me about Megabus ($25). Met The Wife there and looking back, wished we had stayed a day or two longer, but we were anxious to get the road trip underway. 

Side of MLK Monument.    Photo: © Stan Banos

I must admit we didn't plan quite as well as we should have when it came to what route we were taking and what exactly we planned to do and see. I had become somewhat spoiled and complacent to detailed advanced planning when it came to our previous road trips- in The Southwest even on major interstates, one can still be surrounded by the grandest of scenery and unexpected visual delights. I slowly discovered such would not be the case in The South, where Interstates are surrounded by generically interchangeable trees and scenery (as in most of the country)- the only break being the (very) occasional Stars and Bars Confederate Flag, flying proud, high atop some very visible and unapproachable vantage point like the giant FUCK YOU! it is obviously meant to be. Who is responsible for their presence I don't rightly know, but it is, without doubt, quite the surreal experience upon first seeing. I had fully expected to see many more "home grown" Confederate flags and Trump signs for decent photo ops but the few I saw were not very photo conducive. Also noticeably sparse in number- religiously oriented road signs; alas, another huge disappointment...

That said (and how much is genuine and how much simple artifice- I don't know) the people down South are, as a whole, incredibly polite and friendly. One of the main goals of this trip however was for Lisa ("The Wife") to meet some relatives she had only recently discovered. That occurred in the little (and I do mean little) town of Washington, Georgia which has a lovely town square (complete with requisite Confederate soldier monument), a newly restored hotel, and directly opposite that was... Cade's Home Cooking- Soul Food at it's ever lovin' best! I'm betting there's quite a few of these quaint, old towns throughout The South, but without the proper research, there's no way of telling if the small town you're exiting to explore from the interstate has one of these vintage "Historical Town Districts" at the end of the usual array of modern strip mall emporiums- or not!

Titanic Museum, TN       Photo: © Stan Banos

Along the way from DC to New Orleans, we made a number of stops, one of which was at Pigeon Forge, TN- kinda like Vegas (sans gambling) and Six Flags rolled into one and home to a variety of tourist hot spots like: Dollywood, Wonderworks and the Titanic Museum. I also feel compelled to mention that one of the more memorable (and repeated) sights was that of seeing people just barely squeezing themselves into and out of their vehicles. And I'm certainly not talking the small foreign compacts of yesteryear, these were huge, modern pick ups and SUV's that could hardly accommodate their XXXL passengers! Oh, and how do you keep a red state red? 2.31 gas!

Atmore, AL   Photo: © Stan Banos

Sevierville, TN       Photo: © Stan Banos

In Birmingham, AL we stopped to visit The 16th St Baptist Church where four young girls were killed by a KKK placed bomb, before making our way to Montgomery and The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, or as some are prone to call it- The Lynching Museum. I remember a "discussion" concerning lynching on Petapixel (the penultimate site for intellectual discourse) where most Whites insisted that lynching was an equal opportunity employer back in the day. And while, yes, it did happen to people of all races, colors and creeds- they were in absolute ignorance and denial that it was disproportionately used upon Blacks, not only as a form of mob "justice," but as a form of abject terrorism (Black bodies were often additionally burned, dismembered, and cut into souvenirs). The Memorial pays homage to those facts in a very convincing manner- by documenting the names of the victims while gradually forcing you to raise your head to view them as you make your way through the memorial- just as you would have had to raise your head to view the hanging body...

Footprints from monument to Montgomery bus boycott. Photo: © Stan Banos

I wish that was the sole, enduring memory I have of Montgomery- but the following morning I awoke with over a a dozen Bedbug bites (tired and hard pressed to find accommodations that day, we didn't inspect the premises properly). Next morning, they weren't all that hard to find as we decontaminated our clothes and luggage with the all-natural bug spray The Wife cleverly brought, demanded our money back and emailed the Montgomery Dept of Health- who I have yet to hear back from...

I hadn't been to New Orleans since the late seventies when I'd board a Greyhound bus from NY for a day and a half, take pictures all throughout Fat Tuesday, and then reboard the bus the very same night for a day and a half trip back... cause that's the kinda thing you can get away with in your twenties. This time, after doing the usual tourist trap scenario through the French Quarter, we were much more interested in exploring what the hell happened during Katrina and its aftermath, how it happened, and where. So we went on a "Katrina Tour" which doesn't actually go through the Lower Ninth Ward (to avoid blatant exploitation) on a Grayline bus tour with the most knowledgeable Bruce Nolan who was a Times-Picayune journalist during the man made disaster. 

Close up of 9th Ward retaining wall.    Photo: © Stan Banos

The first thing I quickly realized is that the flood walls are not very imposing by any stretch of the imagination. I was expecting formidable Trumpian sized border wall massiveness, but they're actually surprisingly close to the ground-  far from the reassurance one would want from the power of mother nature and the ensuing rise in sea level thanks to climate change! Some are built on levees for additional buttressing and height, but even they buckled, crumbled and collapsed due to the shit poor construction via The Army Corps of Engineers- as a result, 80% of the city flooded, 1,800 people died and it took a full week before the cavalry started to limp on in...

The following day we visited the headquarters of which gave us a brief but informative orientation to The Lower Ninth Ward, and off we went. Haven't been to Detroit, but this is somewhat what I imagine it to be (albeit on a much grander scale), this section of New Orleans is the least rebuilt, with vacant lots surrounding a  minor sprinkling of the most modest of new homes. This poorest, mostly African-American neighborhood was the hardest hit by flooding in the entire city (surprise!).  

There's a wall atop that levee- somewhere...        Photo: © Stan Banos

New Orleans' architecture, music, food and culture are truly unique throughout the world- as are its people. It was heartening to hear from a young Black employee at our hotel that Whites and Blacks seem to have drawn closer since Katrina- at least they are conversing and socializing more than before. It is truly a a jewel amongst the homogeneity that can describe many an American city.

What kind of city is New Orleans? When we arrived at the airport for our departing flight back home, try as I might, I couldn't find any trace of Alaska Airlines. Finally, I noticed a distinguished looking airport employee, an African American gentleman a few years my senior. "Excuse me, could you tell me where Alaska Airlines is?" He looked me straight in the eye, furrowed his brow, and with the most bemused expression possible, replied, "Alaska Airlines!?" (Pause.) "In this airport???" Awww, shit- how in hell did I ever manage to fuck this up so completely!?! "It's right over there," pointing the way with the wryest of smiles. "You just keep being you," I managed to blurt out- how many others had he so bedeviled and thoroughly amused?

A truly unique city.

A pair of very buxom fellows.      Mobile, AL   Photo: © Stan Banos

Mobile, AL   Photo: © Stan Banos

Friday, June 21, 2019

Post Mortem Rejection

I tend to periodically report on my perennial and rather pristine record of competition rejections. And manage I did to get rejected yet several more times ie- FIVE (5) times!!! while on holiday- gotta admit, there’s a certain indomitable consistency in being rejected both at home and on the road... Why do I put myself through this (the possibility for repeated rejection, or writing about it)- does it matter? I suppose to let off steam, and perhaps garner some small semblance of revelatory knowledge as to why...

1) Der Greif- Now if ever there was a competition specifically made just for moi, a competition tailor made for: explicit, "mature audience," forbidden nature type photography. Finally, a place I can show my Nekid City photos, right? R-I-G-H-T!?!?!?

Well, as soon as I anxiously edited my photos (no longer have folder of photos sent- so take your pick), a little itty-bitty bell went off upside my head- these guys seem dead set on making a Tres SERIOUS Artistic Statement on- The Forbidden. Any spark of... levity may well be- VERBOTEN! Sure 'nough, Next...

2) Bokeh, Bokeh- No set theme here; I decided to send what I considered a half dozen strong, coherent street portraits of solitary individuals. Apparently they didn't think so...

Photo: © Stan Banos

Photo: © Stan Banos

Photo: © Stan Banos

Photo: © Stan Banos

Photo: © Stan Banos

Photo: © Stan Banos

3) I submitted two photos to the SF Street Photo Competition- the first, to the best Analog Photo category; the second, to the best Street Photo in SF category (there were like 5 different categories in all). I don't think competitions in general look favorably on one photo submissions- I think they want you to "prove" yourself with a series (and more $$$), even if they're only choosing one shot. And I'm gonna say this, and I don't care what anyone thinks- after looking at the work of some of the twenty yr old judges in this comp, the one thing that immediately came to mind was... 

They're judging my work... Really??? Now I certainly got nothing against the young-uns- but if you're gonna sit in judgement of other people's work... then there should be a certain amount of sophistication, maturity and accomplishment to your own!

Photo: © Stan Banos

Photo: © Stan Banos

4) I also submitted the same color photo above to the Lens Culture Street comp simply because... you could submit one photo for free (I've given them enough of my money; see first reason directly above). PS: Also I've pretty much made myself persona non grata at LC for what I've told them directly in previous comps.

5) Finally, I submitted a photo to a domesticated animal competition at Lenscratch. Aline Smithson (who runs said blog but was not judging it) was kind enough to email me (before judging) saying how much she liked said photo- we both knew it was going nowhere...

Photo: © Stan Banos