” The Kims’ excellent adventure”

One of my life’s great and on going interest has been to comprehend and expand my knowledge of totalitarianism; not only because it is mouthful but primeraly because so much of our history is the consequence of a few men’s astounding ability to regulate every aspect of the societies they control, and remake in their own image.
The basic principles of totalitarianism are for the most part very simple but not so easily applied. If a career as a totalitarian political leader is appealing, “The Prince”, by Niccolo Machiavelli, would certainly be required reading. If the written word is not your thing, you can always consult the cliff notes, here, and get a jump on the competition. My interest in totalitarianism permeates almost every aspect of my life, and especially my work as a photographer, believe it or not.

For those of you who might be interested in a good read featuring a masterfully adept totalitarian, I would strongly recommend Bradley K. Martin’s book, “Under the loving care of the fatherly leader”, North Korea and the Kim Dynasty. I rely on the work of authors like Mr. Martin to deepen and broaden my knowledge on the afore mentioned subject, and am often awed by their ability to synthesize enormous amounts of information and popularize it for the rest of us. It often seems almost miraculous that anyone could manage, organize and narrate a 700 plus pages book on any subject as complex as the “excellent political adventures of the Kims”. I won’t attempt a synopsis as it certainly is not a skill I possess but take my word for it and pick up a copy.

In the meantime, I have contacted Mr. Martin who lives and work in Tokyo and someday hope to travel to North Korea. I am still trying to figure out what might entice a client to send me there but I am working on it. As soon as I get a lead I’ll let you know. Thanks for caring.

Thorazine.

pia06917.jpg

It might be said that my chances of becoming an astronaut have been severely diminished by my present occupation, but nonetheless, and in the off chance that NASA scouts are searching the internet for landscape photographers; I will venture to submit my candidacy electronically.

This might be the only time that it may not be held against me that, that “kind” of work, is actually not in my portfolio. Afterall, there has only been but a handful of photographers in space and none of them were “Professionals” . Furthermore, they have all retired to ranches in California or, in between naps, are lecturing to kindergardeners to pad their government pensions.
Tags: photographer, photography, planets, travel , government contract, tax and spend, gratuitous, round trip, re-entry, direct deposit, exemption, retrospective, artist statement, treadmill.

Yeltsin’ is a verb.

I think it was saturday morning, on my way to Costco, when Boris Yeltsin popped into my mind. Several years ago, I had previously written of my intentions of putting together a fotonovela called “Boris and the Donkey”, loosely based on Yeltstin’s life as a tippler and of his tendency to operate heavy industries under the influence. My original intentions had been to pass “Yeltsin'” into the vernacular as a verb; denoting someone’s tendency to imbibe alcoholic drinks, habitually or to excess: “Judy had been yeltsin’ heavily before she fell off the bridge, and onto the icy banks of the Volga”.

As I was saying, I briefly, inexplicably, and suddenly, remembered Boris Yeltsin and wondered what had become of him. Not much had been heard from him since 1999 and it seemed surprising that such an habitual yeltster might still miraculously be alive . Lo and behold, when I turned on the morning news, Boris had been pronounced dead to the world. For more on Boris Yeltsin, click here. As for my powers of intuition, further and more indirect proof of my channeling Russian political figures are needed to confirm this yet undiscovered ability.

Kazakhstan

Pawel’s cousin went to Kazakhstan on business a few months ago and brought back an armful of photographs. A small but poignant testimony of a trip, which was not without it’s rewards. An eye witness account of a country trying to shake itself free from the bonds of tyranny and ridicule. Pawel graciously forwarded his photographic manifesto to his friends in the hope of entertaining us all.

I promptly passed it on to my circle, and a few strangers I could trust. I had hoped that one day these images would boomerang back to me but so far, no cigar. The comedic quality of these images are undeniable, if technically mediocre, but that can be forgiven since without them some of our stereotypes may not have been confirmed. So without further ado, Pawel’s cousin’s photographs from his business trip to Kazakhstan. In the meantime, I am off to chop imaginary wood.

Henry Wessel et al.

wessel.jpg

Henry Wessel whose work I have only just come across caught my attention. He seems to have had a great deal of influence as a mentor and teacher at the San Francisco Art Institute and beyond. His work is better viewed in person, and you can still do that at San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art, until April 22nd, which is today. I tend not to discuss other photographers’ work as I would rather leave those ruminations to others.

Another artist of note is Jeff koons, recently featured in the New Yorker. I have always liked Jeff Koons’s work primarily because it is humorous. “Fine” art is for the most part singularly uh-humorous but Jeff Koons is one of the few exception to that rule. Humor, is considered lightweight and unworthy of a great deal of attention because it somehow lacks depth (whatever that means). Art, much like religion, is not meant to be humorous, it’s serious business. No need to wonder why Art was the propaganda arm of religion for so long, the two are quite possibly forever joined at the hip. I am not quite sure that most people realize that unconsciously or not we equate both in our minds or work towards that end.

Art directly served religion for so long that it will take a very long time before it actually becomes divorced of that association. Modernism attempted to sever those links but only separated itself from its historical patron by looking to other forms of mysticism, culturally appropriating them to revolutionize itself, a much needed shot in the arm, but a fragile and momentary prescription. To this day I’d be willing to bet that most artists, wether they are conscious of it or not still work within that framework. I don’t think that’ll change any time soon.

One for the Ages.

My friend Bill was nice enough to share this link with me and it’s one for the ages. Beware, as it contains strong language, so if you are at work you might not want your boss looking over your shoulder and jeopardize that symbiotic relationship you might have going for you. It will certainly bound to raise eyebrows, or lower them, or make you spit out that double latte, which contextually, might not be a bad thing. Give it like a man Charlie Rose…

Lucky Me.

Got Lucky in the mail today, even-though I like the sound of that, it is not what you think but one of Conde Nast’s moneymakers. The magazine about shopping. I won’t bore you with a lengthy diatribe about attention spam, since I do not have one myself, but it certainly got my attention. This mysterious gift from the database gods landed on my doorsteps for reasons only they unfathomably understand but I am grateful for it’ s surprising arrival.
I could not make ifs ands buts about it as it seemed obviously calculated to confuse, and fill closets to boot; but what really interested me was how this rag ( I am using the vernacular here, not the pejorative) is put together.
Given my notoriously low attention span I am awed by the minds behind it. Not unlike great feats of engineering or logistics, Lucky seems able to come together with the relative ease of a library’s card catalogue, filled with the promise of untold intellectual riches but dauntingly intimidating since I can barely remember the alphabet; that’s right I still have trouble remembering it after 42 years of literacy. Now, if this previous entry fails to make a point, that would be my point; I am easily influenced.
The magazine about shopping makes me wish I could actually understand Nature (the Magazine about Science), since I seem to sense that no matter how hard I try, I know that I’ll get Lucky before I get Nature.

Also in the news today: Today is the first day of California light. For those of you who have never been to California the light here is really quite simply pornographic. So today, while sitting outside, I noticed that summer light is here. It’s usually characterized, at least to my mind, by a very subtle intra molecular silvery hue, as if billions of crystal meth nano-particles were suspended in the air in an orgy of riotous cosmic love making. You kind of have to squint, or space out a little to get in the groove, but if you face North North West (10AM Standard Pacific Time), it is quite visible. Light particles buzz around each other and create soupy clear micro-explosions, I can only understand as some kind of photonic switch, which to my mind means: Get to work.

“Yossef’s Buck.”

yossefsharpflat.jpg

For up to the minute updates on what I am doing, this blog will serve as the perfect platform to freshen up the official website of the other “Our Dear”, “Dear leader”; the political arm of Olivier Laude dot com. Think of it as its under-secretary of public relations and imoticons.
I shot this yesterday in the Sacramanto river delta, a favorite haunt. This image will further garnish Charlie’s* cult of personality; until one day the world will recognize his image as readily as any other dictator worth his salt. Once this image is properly scanned and color corrected to my exact specifications, it will be called “Yossef’s Buck”, a cultural reference to a now long deceased German artist better know for his obsessive compulsive use of felt and bees wax.

Besides this superficial reference to our afore mentioned German Artist, I am, as I often like to do, referencing other images of mine. The redwood bark palette was used in a previous photograph; the now infamous “Mikkel Sønafenlillepigemedsvovlstikker, from the “Autobahnüberfal, the Danes” series (see below). I have good reasons to do so, so please trust me on this one…..as you might a beloved father.

*our compliant and charismatic model.
img_people1-17.jpg

Cultural Anthropologists

Cultural anthropologists have become some of the most interesting and insightful writers around. It stands to reason that Cultural Anthropology and its methods should be applied to individuals working in the arts as a means of understanding their work in ways which are more empirical, based on field work and theories already used in the scientific study of humanity. I see no reason why these principles may not be used to focus on specific individuals as a means to understand their work without having to rely on their own interpretation and on those of other Art professionals; a group of people notoriously prone to obfuscation. This has already been achieved by visual anthropologists and art anthropologists but in broader contexts, not necessarily focusing on one particular individual, so correct me if I am wrong. Any further information on the subject would be appreciated.

Wikipedia:

Cultural anthropology is one of four fields of anthropology (the holistic study of humanity) as it developed in the United States. It is the branch of anthropology that has developed and promoted “culture” as a meaningful scientific concept; it is also the branch of anthropology that studies cultural variation among humans.

The anthropological concept of “culture” reflects in part a reaction against earlier Western discourses based on an opposition between “culture” and “nature”, according to which some human beings lived in a “state of nature”. Anthropologists argue that culture is “human nature,” and that all people have a capacity to classify experiences, encode classifications symbolically, and teach such abstractions to others. Since humans acquire culture through learning (the processes of enculturation and socialization), people living in different places or different circumstances may develop different cultures. Anthropologists have also pointed out that through culture people can adapt to their environment in non-genetic ways, so people living in different environments will often have different cultures. Much of anthropological theory has originated in an appreciation of and interest in the tension between the local (particular cultures) and the global (a universal human nature, or the web of connections between people in distinct places/circumstances).

Parallel with the rise of cultural anthropology in the United States, social anthropology, in which “sociality” is the central concept and which focuses on the study of social statuses and roles, groups, institutions, and the relations among them, developed as an academic discipline in Great Britain. Some anthropologists have drawn on both traditions and identify themselves as socio-cultural anthropologists.

Some Cultural Anthropologists you might want to read:
Jared Diamond, “Guns, Germs and Steel”, and “Collapse”, a less succesfull book by the same author but still worth reading.
Jack Weatherford, “Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World”, and the “History of Money”.

Afghanistan et Al….

Kabul

Back in 2003 I traveled to afghanistan for Time Magazine. Besides Afghanistan I also went to Hong Kong, better described as a giant repository of shopping malls, the Philippines, Japan and India, in that order. Afghanistan left the deepest impression because it truly felt like a country in flux. I have always been attracted to countries which are somehow trying to make something of themselves, however poorly or half hazzard-ly.
I feel at home in such places because they obviously reflect on my own personal peregrinations as a person. Adding to the mix is the sheer beauty and anvil like strength of the surroundings and Afghanistan becomes hypnotic in its quiet chaos.
I generally do not feel the need to videotape anything, outside of my boys, as any proud parent should, but Afghanistan was the exception to the rule. I borrowed a video camera from an AP photographer and drove around with my fixer for a day; in between shoots. This video is unedited apart from removing my fixer’s face from the mix.
Given recent events in that country and in Iraq, involving anyone perceived to have been somehow associated with Americans I do not want his identity to be revealed online, and have him suffer the possible consequences. I chose not to edit it partly because to do so seems unnecessary. The running sound track is from my fixer’s musical collection, Kabul radio, or our conversations throughout the day(yes we communicated by singing to one another). You can download it to your Ipod or your desktop and look at Kabul and its surroundings as I saw it and felt it, without any further intervention on my part.

Suggested reading if you are interested in the history of Central Asia:
“The Great Game”, by Peter Hopkirk.

Les Filles des mer du Sud.

    1. Dear Diary,
      airport2.jpg

      I bought these lovely ladies at the Papeete airport, in Tahiti, French Polynesia. These images I presume shot in the mid-80s, remind me of my days in the south pacific(see previous entry). For those of you who might be tempted to vacation in that part of the world, these sumptuous maidens are not to be easily found outside an airport gift shop, but may be you can, on your next assignment propose to seek their ultimate existence.
      If only the editorial world would let itself be convinced that they would make for a good spread; a “where are they now” sorta thing. But really, where are they now? Are they married, do they have kids, are they still collecting royalties?

      I purchased these last August on my way back from a well deserved vacation in Rangiroa and Huahine, but was there mostly to dive and eat “casse croute”, that’s french for sandwich. Casse croute is actually the old school way of saying “sandwich”, since that word is only really used in parts of the world where, long ago, the French used to hold court over their colonial brethrens. Meanwhile, a Polynesian “casse croute”, consists mainly of a thirty five foot long baguette filled with mayonaise and reconstituted hamwich, not unlike spam but frothier, sorta like a pork merengue. They can also be found stuffed with fried fish, which is more palatable; but what will I stare at, if I eat the freaking fish I traveled so far to ogle.
      airport.jpg
      Speaking of ogling, there was not much of that to be done as I spent most of my time underwater. While on land, I surrounded myself with Italian divers, whom I must admit were far more amusing than their french cousins. True to their nature, they were fun and burlesquely entertaining; while my compatriots lurked in the shadows, covered in salt water sores. As for the Polynesians they manned the boats and kept mostly to themselves having been stripped of their culture and health long ago. “Aye, Aye captain Cook”. Actually, subsequent visitors did the real damage, but who’s counting.

      While brazzenly purchasing these cards I happily stared down newly minted grooms returning from a lifetime of fornication in Bora Bora.
      While their femmates paid the powder room a visit, these presumably oversexed, mostly American men, feverishling pawed through the merchandise until their bride’s blood diamonds flashed their impending and unwelcomed return from across the terminal.
      airport1.jpg

      I suppose I should talk about why I am attracted to these images, lest I be accused of having baser instincts, not unlike those of my afore mentioned flightmates. Owing to the fact that in the months prior to my second visit to Polynesia I voraciously read all I could on its history and culture; and I cannot tell a lie: I find these girls extremely attractive. So, not unlike my other great love in life, African music, it’s all fun and games until you finally understand the lyrics, it’s happy on the outside, miserable on the inside. My kind of art.
      airport3.jpg

    Dear Diary. Let me begin with an introduction.

    Born:
    In France, in Lille, France, October 2nd, 1964.
    Wild ass is slaughtered and turned into sausage to celebrate afore mentioned nativity. Quadruped’s name withheld from public records.
    I shared this date, but not the sausage, with Mahatma Ghandi, Sting, Charlie Chaplin and umpteen other bitches.

    Important dates:
    Summer 1970: Buggers first goat as rite of passage in Milaria; a leper colony bathed several hundred nautical miles in the Mediterranean sea. Goat is subsequently butchered and polished off by villagers in bacchanalian feast reminiscent of Pliny the Elder: A roman historian whose claim to fame was his pyroclastic entombment in Pompei; not to be confused by the ” Pyro-Classics”, Virgil’s first poem -a four books lyrical odyssey, ostensibly about farming, which he wrote during the terrible civil war following Julius Caesar’s untimely death in the BC (that’s hip hop, for Before Christ).

    1968 to 1979: Suffers the wrath of God in numerous Jesuit schools but survives with personality cult intact, besides his being easily medicated and plagued by minor neuroses. Psychosis avoided by vacationing with fairy grandparents, herds of Bovidae, honey bees and like minded urchins; in pastoral mountainous ranges.

    1979: Ships to the United states as wretched human cargo in container ship from Le Havre, France, to Brooklyn shipyards; escapes from said metal box with mini blow torch, like creme brulee, but harder.
    High School in Millbrook, New York.
    Enjoyed Physics, Biology and rearranging ice flows on frozen Hudson in failed attempts to communicate with clouds that looked like hamsters.
    Became very cross country runner, masturbation a must. Great loss of DNA.
    English language mastered; further DNA disbanded.

    Education:
    Skidmore College
    BS in Art History
    Class of 1986.
    Graduated Magma Cum Laude in Art History, but dem bitches did not award a prize for that, so no cigar for this record.
    Magma cum MaryJane. I’d like to thank the Otis elevator company for providing me with a safe and secure place to smoke between classes. Je voudrai m’excuser aupres des handicapes.
    Failed philosophy twice, some photography classes….
    Graduate with a 1.7 GPA; I tried to do better but my subsequent corporate sponsorship with the Otis elevator company conflicted with regularly scheduled classes.
    Ate large amounts of cream of wheat; cause: no money. It’s nutritious and nourishious.
    Bring water to a boil, dump in stomach size lump of cream of wheat, cook until good enough to consummate, flavor with glucose heaps, eat 3 times a day. Ruminate.
    Lived in the woods in turquoise 1978 VW van but sometimes parked on school property. Showered irregularly.

    Employment:

    1986-1993

    Managing Editor.

    Ax Grinding Quarterly: A Journal dedicated to the use of hand-held implements used for felling trees or chopping wood.

    1993-1993 and a half:
    Publius Ovidius Naso biannual festival coordinator and CEO:

    Duties included discussing Ebonics with or without Bernard Henry Lévy, french philosopher and noted intellectual. Often referred today as BHL, Lévy was born in Béni-Saf, Algeria on 5 November 1949. He became part of a group of French intellectuals who were disenchanted with communist and socialist responses to the near revolutionary upheavals in the France of May 1968. It articulated a fierce and uncompromising moral critique of Marxist and socialist dogmas years prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

    Frequent and often epistemological arguments lead to a palace coup and to his forced removal as Chairman and CEO of Publius Ovidius Naso.
    Publius Ovidius Naso filed for bankruptcy in 1994 under a cloud of suspicious financial wrong doings, money laundering, and naive realism; itself a phenomenalist aberration rooted in empirical relativism.

    1993 and a half- 1995

    Special economic adviser and compliant side kick to his Majesty King Taufa’ahau™ (since 1965). The Friendly Republic of Tonga™.

    Duties included shouting down Samoans, berating Tahitians and belittling those fools on Easter Island. Could have gone as far as deriding the “Good People of the Galapagos”™ but there is some kind of sanctuary there, crawling with leaf eaters. Adroitly advised the King to stick to bipeds, a euphemism, of course.
    My position was terminated after a vicious, all out, tropical food and flotsam fight during Sunday service at ” Our Lady of Perpetual Desalination”. I was mercilessly set adrift on a jute raft from Nuku’alofa as punishment for my crimes but was picked up by a drunken Russian freighter plying the Cook Islands, trawling for signs of desperation.
    Due to their severe inhibriation I was mistakenly identified for a wahine but once again managed to escape their advances by leaping onto a nearby Korean shrimp farmer. Those years with the traveling circus finally paid off as I became their favorite pet monkey; a perfect leap into the unknown but a brilliant career move.

    1995-2001

    Executive Pet Monkey to the Korean Ship farmer ” Atlantic Platypus”, a semi-aquatic bottom trawler with Liberian plates.

    Duties included, pretending to be a coconut, peeling plantains, curling both lips to reveal a set of comedic brown teeth, massaging a wary crew with fish oil, collecting algae for the tender, which housed a magnificent exclusive spa and retreat. Other duties included translating “in screeches”™ what the lookout thought he was spotting, far off on the horizon, as well as delivering much needed supplies to Afghan refugees marooned on Christmas island (unfortunately, the irony was lost on our mostly Buddhist Kampuchean crew).

    2001-Present

    Managing Editor: ” Punjabi Represent”™,The Cole Valley Middle Aged Men’s Secret Society Magazine.

    Duties include: Mixing bleach with ammonia, befriending pigeons to further my communication skills, shouting liftoff to my avian friends all the while encouraging them to reach for the sky, trampling underfoot and marching with penguins.

    Special Skills:
    Using agricultural metaphors in political speeches for the advancement of the hard of hearing and the Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian and Transgender community.
    Making life deliberately hard for friends and family, so that they can redeem themselves through labor.
    Legal latin. Try this at home: “Ab Initio, it should be said that there is a good prima facie case for my decision to forgo this curriculum vitae”.