What would Trotsky do?

I had originally thought that I would not discuss photography, or photographers, for that matter, but it seems that I am unfortunately and inexorably drawn to it. Rather than point out photographers I actually do like, I’ll stick, for the most part to photographers I either do not like or flat out dislike (there is a difference). I am sure there will be the occasional photographer who’s work I enjoy but those I do not dig, do not get, or am simply dumbfounded by, make for better entertainment.

So without further ado and without naming names or pointing a dirty finger at anyone in particular I will first begin with two photographers whom I believe should promptly submit self criticisms to the people and lick its collective boot; come to think of it they might already be. Anyway, and the winners are: The running dog, Loretta Lux, and the capitalist roader Jeff Wall.

Now for the difficult part; as I sit….. desperately hoping for a thought to cross my mind. May be that’s my problem; I am dumb as a post (no pun intended)…. I might be able to string something together to justify my utter disinterest in Loretta’s work (sounds country doesn’t it) but Jeff Wall will certainly be more of a challenge.
I actually like children, a lot, especially when they are alive. As for her images if you lay them flat, do their eyes roll back into their heads and do their eyelids close?
Don’t get me wrong I sorta like Julia Margaret Cameron, at least in passing, but at the end of the day I don’t think she needs any disciples. One Julia Margaret Cameron is more than enough for both the 19th and 20th century. I might also be inclined to give her more credit if she was suffering from consumption and had to live strapped to an iron lung, but as far as I know she lives and works in Monaco, kicking it on the French Riviera; so close to royalty, I could squeal….
Aargh…What can I say, her work feels dead. “You’re dead to me Loretta….Don’t ever call me again”.(door slams)- cut to freshly cut lemon – camera pans left and settles on the opened kitchen window – blue sky, vapor trails, it’s April 1943; what a pickle…! In the distance, you can hear a child’s drum roll.

When the revolution comes I’ll make sure they are reassigned to drier pastures and forced to properly atone for their sins; may be Santa needs new reindeers. As for Jeff Wall I’ll let his own work and words work their magic on a yet unimagined and unimaginable scale; and it’s back lit to boot. People, please, take a moment to glimpse deep into the inner works of the creative mind: “Wall described the ‘event’ of this work as ‘a moment in a cemetery. The viewer might imagine a walk on a rainy day. He or she stops before a flooded hole and gazes into it and for some reason imagines the ocean bottom. We see the instant of that fantasy, and in another instant it will be gone. The Flooded Grave was completed over a two-year period, and photographed at two different cemeteries in Vancouver as well as on a set in the artist’s studio. It was constructed as a digital montage from around 75 different images”.
Are we suppose to be more impressed by the process than we are by the resulting image; fuck….! train spotting is more fun, and just as time consuming. Jeff, please stand back for a moment and step off the cliff if you please.

You can review his musings here, the intro is a masterful piece of work, you can smell how hard they worked to put one word in front of the other. May be another, actually great Canadian photographer, Edward Burtynsky, can give him a spanky, on location, in his studio, for a tableau. Come to think of it, I’ll do it….

“I thought at the very beginning that all my different directions would all be connected by means of working with that truth claim. But never in the same way”*. Throw in a few obscure greek philosophers, 17th century Italian philologers and a professed love for deconstructivist opera and you might even get laid by that pretty little receptionnist at the gallery; she’s still young and impresionable and only eats celery sticks and cottage cheese.

* “The traditional claim that photography represents ‘truth’ is highly contested, and it is this interface between truth and fiction, actuality and fantasy that Wall has chosen to explore.”

I don’t think this blog is going to further my carreer….Dammit…!

PS: “Fervens ex afar , tamen recedentia ex fervens.!”, which actually means, translated from Latin into English “Glowing out of afar , not withstanding retreat out of glowing!, which suspiciously sounds like Japanese barbecue but which really means ” Hot from afar, but far from hot”.
It’s that sinking feeling you get when you scope out a hot looking chick with long blond hair and a tight ass to subsequently realize, to your homophobic horror; when she turns around, that HE is nothing but a “crystal-hick”…..Dammit….!

It’s Gabriel’s birthday.

Today is Gabriel’s birthday. In the process, a loot of major league proportion was duly acquired. An avid soccer fan and its associated fashions he was showered with some of his favorite team jerseys, as well as a Key-tar courtesy of Koichi. I made Shabu-Shabu, Korean fish fry and spicy tofu treats, washed down with ice cold water and sparkly cup cakes for dessert, decorated with nine candles.

In preparation for these festivities Raphael and I went shopping in Japantown, ate candy and sat in massage chairs to kill some precious time. After this birthday feast, we retreated to the parlor and watched DVDs to further hone in our already encyclopedic knowledge of FIFA’s history. Gabriel fell asleep a happy man, clutching his size four Chelsea ball; woke up at six for a hug and promptly resumed watching the world cup greatest’ hits. Happy Birthday Gaby…..!

gaby.jpg

Shakespeare’s Oculist or pretentious rhetoric.

I shot this picture for Forbes as part of a story on robots in a windowless basement at John’s Hopkins University. For whatever reason John’s Hopkins’ campus gave me the creeps. As a matter of fact, the whole East coast gives me the creeps; I do not know why and mean no disrespect. May be it’s something about deciduous trees, bricks and mortar, trench coats or cheap suits; may be it’s the humidity or dunkin’ donuts, heat lamps, hedge funds and Hampton estates.

The chief scientist, who’s name I do not recall ran his lab like a tribal chieftain yet fawned over me, ingratiatingly. I felt something not unlike emphathy, as he seemed to have too long suffered the inequity of scientific discovery; having toiled endlessly in the basement’s shadows; obsessing over his life’s work, on the edge of insanity; brought on by years of self discipline, teaching assistants and grant writing.

Because images are often personal this picture owes it’s strength only to day’s memories and is nothing if selective. It came back to haunt me after going to the Whitney, while in New York on business, to see Taryn Simon’s intellectually seductiveâ„¢ show titled: “An American Index of the hidden and the unfamiliar”.

May be that’s another thing that enervates me out about the East coast. It still seems mired in the classics and the Academy; the Academic Industrial Complex; that obsessive need to ascribe and prescribe intellectual meaning to everything, for personal gain, notoriety and respectability, an all together American neurosis; well may be not…. but when you combine it with old money and local politics, it makes for powerful cabal.

The thing is, Europeans have been doing it for centuries and it has become as innate and as inescapable as it’s irracesbale history. It’s the reformation, the industrial revolution and cabinets of curiosities; it’s in the genes, it’s in the culture; and it smells like balls and chains and filterless cigarettes. Americans tend to come to it to hood wink their barbers and candle makers. Respectability is owning a winery.

I have to admit that Ms. Simon’s “The Innocents” was far more interesting than her more recent indexing of the hidden and the unfamiliar; hidden and unfamiliar to whom? Seems a bit presumptuous, but if you ever want to find out, ask a Brit; masters of the arcane, the obscure and the sun stroke.

At this point Ms. Simon I am afraid might be masterfully gliding towards the cold, self absorbed and calculated grip of an all too familiar niche; something she might not have done altogether innocently. Obfuscation after all is the intellectual class’s best return on its money. Obfuscation loves its own company; it’s the narcissism of the artfully idle rich. “I say, could you please pass the Derrida…”. Don’t get me wrong she is not at this point fallen for that routine but could well be on her way; the center is hard to please, the palace is a fickle intrigue. After all I do like her work and think she is a very talented and thinking photographer but hope she returns to less esoteric projects; this one, however well thought out and executed feels a little too contrived for my taste. Dang, I hope I don’t write too many of these kinds of entries….and if I do, please shoot me.

b-johns6102.jpg

Artist Statement?

There is a great quote by Fellini: “Don’t tell me what I am doing, I don’t want to know”. Consequently, don’t ask me what I am doing, I don’t want to know. But it just so happens that everyone wants to know, present company excluded. Me don’t need to know.

Experience trumps reason. I like standing on a summer day in the San Joaquin valley and feeling the sun’s rays; the way I loved light when I was six years old but did not need to think about it or profit from it.

I am often accused of being a portrait photographer. A bit like accusing your reflection of being a mirror. My people may be staring at the camera but they are not portraits. They are not staring at you, I am.

Music for Proteins

Brie Takahashi is obviously a bright and creative doctoral student at UCLA. She has managed to put proteins to music. The resulting sounds remind me of the MIDI files we used to download in the internet’s infancy to color and pepper otherwise dull grey and blue websites with a touch of whimsy. I miss those sites, but I am sure they’ll make a comeback somehow, since everything it seems comes back around to be re-exploited for some nefariously commercial or sycophantic, fawningly parasitic ego trip. I think they have a name for that now, meta, or something.
Anyway, Ms.Takahashi’s work is as clever as it is beautiful, and I mean in a beautiful mind sorta way. All she has to do now is compose a protein symphony unless others beat her to that punch and steal her credit. Hopefully, her research team can apply for a grant to work with Fred Frith or Brian Eno and put their algorithm to work on higher end machines. Apparently for now, life’s building blocks are played on a Casiotone. You can hear it here. If you like a more hands on approach to creativity, or decide that your life’s work might involve a protein sonata, the good people at UCLA will translate your input genetic sequence to a music file and email it to you free of charge. Check it.