Sunday, February 17, 2013


What is life but a trip through time? Time is the one thing we cannot influence or control. As individuals, what was before can never be restored, because what went before is now a part of who we are, and restoration is just adding a new branch onto the tree that has become you and me. We do choose the journey somewhat if only by opening the doors of opportunity circumstance and others put in our faces to unlatch or pass by. The one opportunity I have usually opened doors to explore new paths, is photography.
I tried many other doors along the way, and with good luck learned more about myself, and the world I was living in. But now after 60 years of travel, I have settled to not opening any new doors, I’m road weary. So it is maybe a time, as long as I can do a little, to look back on my journey to understand where I have been and what that road now means to me, and maybe a few who travel parallel paths.
Of course because anyone reading this has a parallel interest in photography, that has to be the main focus of my thoughts. Because without subjects there is no photography, it necessarily complicates the story. Because for me photography was not just making pictures, but engaging in the adventures in living that involved my subjects. A lot of exploration and occasionally some adventure if not knowing much about your subject requires a lot of learning.
Of course being based in Hollywood to do my photography the one natural subject there are the many beautiful and interesting women in town for a variety of reasons. The challenge is always to what extent the interests and intentions of women as subjects coincides with my interest in photographing them. A challenge always, as the relationship was never much more than a guessing game because very few of my subjects made it simple. And when they did, very often the photographic potential suffered. Complexity is a mystery very often worth exploring. It’s much richer than mutual exploitation to fill simple, particularly common needs.
Hollywood is also a place that needs dilution and counterpoint. So the fact getting in a car usually and seeking picture adventures with distinctly diverse subjects was essential to both my work and perspective. I learned this early when I was a reluctant military person stationed in Alaska. The people I knew there were mostly indifferent or impossible challenges to get along with. But free time off base was a land full of challenge I now wish I had the skill then to capture photographically, much better than I was able to do.
But in the early 1950’s just learning how to do all of the photographic process was a thousand times the challenge it is today. Yes I accept, but resent the advancements that have made photography easier, because today due to easy there are many billions of mediocre images of almost every corner of environment, and kind of human, this planet contains. The results seems to me that photography no longer attracts much serious interest as a way to express a creative talent, so few do that. Is that a reason for me to be cynical and negative about the democratization of photography?
No for many reasons, but the most recent to come to mind arose from this year’s carnival season. From just one magazine I read, The Atlantic, I was able to enjoy quite fine photography from Rio’s Carnival. Besides the mind boggling display of creativity captured in the pictures; to know so immediately that the joy of life is so well celebrated in Brazil, provides much more hope than despair about this world today. It also reminds me that the change from analogue to digital that began for me in 1989, afforded a new opportunity to learn and explore; and to acquire new tools to better perform the skills I have been developing for most of my life.
One might suggest it is all the result of attitude, and for a photographer it is an attitude of an open and exploring vision. You can only make photographs of what you see in your mind’s eye as a picture. The way life and things looked yesterday may be very different in tomorrow’s world. So, how people are looking and seeing today may suggest those new attitudes of vision. That does not mean the obvious of taking up and doing photography with an iPhone or the camera in the latest tablet computer. But how does having a camera integrated into one’s daily living tools affect how we see life from moment to moment. This was so readily illustrated by a one in a century meteorite which struck earth in the Russian Urals near a city and was captured in its flight across the sky by many different cameras, some stationary, some in vehicles and in the hands of people. So now everyone in the world can see some of what that experience looked like, and maybe it will be another century before a meteor strikes again, but now we all know what it looks like.

             Daydream -2000

Monday, February 4, 2013


Just as the Eskimo has been de-tribalized via print, going in the course of a few years from primitive nomad to literate technician, so we, in an equally brief period, are becoming tribalized via electronic channels.”
-Edmund Carpenter / Marshall McLuhan - Explorations In Communications

Most who do photography today are very aware making images has been revolutionized in process from an analogue to a digital media. To a large extent that change has masked the even greater change photography plays in the culture of our times. Most of what organizes our images is a different media that has not changed picture content, but how we use photography as a communication within the cultural environment.

Photography has over a century old place in our history, but only recently have photos been shared and communicated through the internet as part of every aspect of our daily exchanges between people. In the analogue days of photography what camera users did was a specialty isolated as a hobby or profession in the culture. That distinction and isolation no longer exists with FaceBook, Flickr, Instagram and hundreds of similar media hosts connecting all of us to a world of pictures and much more. News and advertising accessing us through ours and others images - we live in a global museum of pictures of ourselves and the world. Google anything and you find what it looks like in a digital photo on a computer display screen.

The tribalization McLuhan and Carpenter referred to in 1960 has largely occurred in my adult lifetime from the mid’50’s to the present. Photographs as cultural material content
has remained largely the same although improved significantly in image quality over time. What has changed is the role images play in our culture, the global village is now a space well known through photographs. The great varieties of ethnic distinctions in people has diminished in two generations. Everyone today looks like another human being to our younger generations. But of course some old-timers are anxious and fearful their presence has disappeared with their past.

We have known the phrase Global Village for half a century and have realized the technologies of today make the world a smaller place through travel, shipping and communications. But are we aware of the cultural changes. Hardly, as they are evolving in and around is unseen but still apparent and powerful. Some college teachers have noted their students are now different than before, and we call them millennials. But do we of the older generations know them? I could say what does the word ‘gangnam’ mean. You can look it up on Google and you will find: you get ten different breakdowns of the term mostly referring to style. "Gangnam Style" is a Korean neologism mainly associated with upscale fashion and a lavish lifestyle associated with trendsetters in Seoul’s Gangnam district, which is considered the most affluent part of the metropolitan area. In colloquial usage, it is comparable to the English slang terms “swag” or “yolo”. Although half way around the world in a country with a spoken and written language very alien to our own english & european counterparts, its culture has spread into the western world in many ways beyond their Samsung and LG electronic products and Kia and Hyundai automobiles. There are no leaders in Korea intentionally exporting their cultural idioms. It’s just mutual human interest through music and fashions that propel differences around the world.

How we are being tribalized can in part be blamed on new technologies like cell phones and and the internet; but hardware does not explain behavior and culture. The the physical means ideas and concepts are communicated and how that has changed our view of reality influencing how people act and react, is something more. Now we exist as if we really are living in a small village that now encompasses the entire planet, or most of it. The term viral expresses all this occurs instantly, but how it comes about is inexplicable. Something that has universal meaning happens significantly in one place, and its affects spread around the world. The most immediate example was the gang rape on a bus in Delhi, India. The news spread instantaneously well beyond India, and one affect was fear among women. Since that awful rape and death of the victim, women in India and elsewhere are beginning to come out into the open to criticize their society, a typically paternalistic authoritarian but supposedly democratic regime, of its failing half of their population. That story resonates in much of the world and the result is a lessening of the establishment’s power in this “man’s” world, and extending a common populism to another including everyone.

As photographers, is there anything we need to do? No, pictures are like words they are neutral. We just have to be vigilant they are not used intentionally to do harm to others. Culture evolves of its own without much governance. Making laws that inhibit culture has never worked. We just have to live with it and keep it connected to reality as much as possible, supporting that which has a positive meaning to human life. 

Hackers in China Attacked The Times for Last 4 Months

For the last four months, Chinese hackers have persistently attacked The New York Times, infiltrating its computer systems and getting passwords for its reporters and other employees.
After surreptitiously tracking the intruders to study their movements and help erect better defenses to block them, The Times and computer security experts have expelled the attackers and kept them from breaking back in.
The timing of the attacks coincided with the reporting for a Times investigation, published online on Oct. 25, that found that the relatives of Wen Jiabao, China’s prime minister, had accumulated a fortune worth several billion dollars through business dealings.

Really, how can any force silence thousands and thousands of cell-phone users living in every corner of the global village, all talking to each other? There is no security against the talk that fills every village and changes feelings and ideas. Centralized force is becoming absurd, but not defeated. The powers of politics will stir the pot, so let’s be vigilant, so that it does not spoil the stew.