Friday, November 28, 2008

Imitation, Influence...and Coincidence

Visual influence can sometimes be difficult to gauge. Between the black and white, the obvious and vague there is also a gray area. Karl Baden, author of the excellent (and searchable) archive Covering Photography, was kind enough to write and let me know about Imitation, Influence...and Coincidence an exhibit currently on view at the Boston Public Library thru December 31st. His generosity extends to making the exhibit available to those of us too far from Boston to see it in person. If you are visiting through the internet I strongly encourage you to take the time to read (full instructions are in the opening paragraphs), view and consider this extraordinarily thoughtful examination of the influence of photography on book design and, thus, culture.

Monday, November 24, 2008


Via the always enlightening MAN I have come upon the blog I call it ORANGES written by Ed Schad. His post reviewing an exhibit up at the Hammer Museum Oranges and Sardines is as fine a breath of fresh air on art and artists and inspiration and influence (and the need to talk about them) as I have read in a long time. Both the blog and the exhibit take their names from this Frank O'Hara poem.

Why I Am Not a Painter

I am not a painter, I am a poet.
Why? I think I would rather be
a painter, but I am not. Well,

for instance, Mike Goldberg
is starting a painting. I drop in.
"Sit down and have a drink" he
says. I drink; we drink. I look
up. "You have SARDINES in it."
"Yes, it needed something there."
"Oh." I go and the days go by
and I drop in again. The painting
is going on, and I go, and the days
go by. I drop in. The painting is
finished. "Where's SARDINES?"
All that's left is just
letters, "It was too much," Mike says.

But me? One day I am thinking of
a color: orange. I write a line
about orange. Pretty soon it is a
whole page of words, not lines.
Then another page. There should be
so much more, not of orange, of
words, of how terrible orange is
and life. Days go by. It is even in
prose, I am a real poet. My poem
is finished and I haven't mentioned
orange yet. It's twelve poems, I call
it ORANGES. And one day in a gallery
I see Mike's painting, called SARDINES.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Taking advice from a Terrorist

The discussion that the Magnum Blog post, giving advice to young photographers early last week, generated has been interesting. I've seen a few commenters on various blogs and discussion groups who seem particularly disturbed that they weren't given a recipe. The scientific method of repeatable steps.

Tuesday I listened to the Fresh Air interview with Bill Ayers. Near the end of the interview (minute 38:00 or so) Terry Gross asks if he has doubts about his actions as a young man. I am going to paraphrase here: He states that he argues to young people that they have a responsibility to act and when they act they have a responsibility to doubt. They then need to use that doubt to act again. Without doubt you become dogmatic, shrill and stupid. Without action you become cynical, passive and a victim of history. (I recommend you listen to the full interview)

I would extrapolate those words of advice on political activism to living a thoughtful life and certainly to being an artist.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Come Again

Whenever I get the chance to go into a book store I head to the photography section. A few weeks ago I was in Chicago to see the Starn's exhibit at David Weinberg Gallery. I had a little time to kill and went into the Border's on Michigan Ave. Unless one is looking for a volume by Ansel Adams or Anne Geddes this is not the best place to browse, but sometimes you get lucky. I will often scan for interesting design as a place to start. I spied a single volume, signatures exposed, glue coating the edges, soft cover. I pulled it out and found a first edition copy of Robert Frank's Come Again sealed in cellophane.

Come Again

by Robert Frank


In November 1991 Robert Frank was invited to Beirut on a commission to photograph the devastated downtown of the city following the end of the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990). Together with the work of five other photographers, his work was included in a book, Beirut City Centre (1992). Alongside his work on the commission he made many Polaroids of the city which he stored in his studio on his return home. Many years later he reconsidered the images and decided to title the work Come Again, but he left the sketch book as he had originally made it in Beirut. Come Again is a facsimile reprint of that piece.
In recent years Robert Frank has worked almost exclusively with Polaroids. Come Again offers insight into the early stages of the artist’s experimentation with this medium and presents a previously unseen artist’s book.

This is a remarkable opportunity to see the artist's hand by way of the facsimile production. Buying it for $20 was a no brainer. Finding it sells for $40 from Steidel (second printing) and $225 at Vincent Borelli (first printing) gilds the lily.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Good fortune

I was free to have lunch (Kung Pao shrimp) with Kevin Miyazaki today. It made me happy. My fortune cookie was dead on.

Monday, November 17, 2008

4 Across

At various times I fall victim to bouts of obsessive behavior that manifest themselves through Sudoku, needle point and cross word puzzles. This is a video that Christopher Guest could have made.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


The new LACMA blog has a wonderful post on Charlotte Cotton's solution for displaying sensitive prints which has transcended it's utilitarian purpose.

via MAN

Friday, November 14, 2008

History in the Buffer

Mike Green/AP

It has been a week and a half since the election (only a little over a week?). I want to suggest you read this post by Contact Press photojournalist David Burnett. The Conscientious Google Group has been having a discussion on the visual language of photojournalism which brought about discussion of photojournalists themselves. I just think it is too easy to pigeon hole.

"Most photojournalists like to feel that what they do in their work has some historic sense to it. I mean, we're photoJOURNALISTS. We like to think that our pictures are, as we often say, the “first draft of history.” They tell the story without words. It's the kind of communication which relies on the eyes, and the heart, and crosses cultural lines in ways that cause words to stumble. For all our sentiment about being historians, most of the time we focus our lenses on situations, people, events which, while important for a moment or two, might not fall into the category of earthshaking or.... historic. But the other night it was different."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hank Willis Thomas and Deborah Willis

Aperture Foundation had a wonderful artist talk with Hank Willis Thomas and Deborah Willis on Tuesday night. Most of you weren't present. How do I know? They took attendance. The highest number of viewers was 9 (towards the end) and that included myself and Sonja Thomsen (we were texting during the conversation, sort of like pokes, smiles and nods if we had been present). The good news is that the entire conversation is available here (click on the top left thumbnail, the video starts with an introduction by Laurel Ptak). The so-so news is that I am very disappointed that so few people took advantage of the live streaming, it makes me fear they (Aperture) won't see the value in making this sort of content available. If you live in New York and were present at the talk or simply too busy to view you have an excuse. For the rest, where these events and insights are entirely too rare, it is as important (IMHO) to support these opportunities as it is to buy work or give money!

View the talk! It is a warm, refreshing, cross generational discussion of making photographs! Subject, documentation, cultural bias, process, it's all here! It will also show Aperture that it is valuable to not only offer these artist talks, but to offer them on the web (what part of Statistic Counters do you not understand?).

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Nothing like Ambien in the morning.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Spitball fight

I am knee deep in the computer changeover from HELL! I am moving into a machine I am calling Big Bertha and have run into a long list of difficulties that I won't bore you with. As a result posting may be spotty for a bit.

Sonja Thomsen posted her version of this lovely site/sight today (McDonald's, Waterford, Wisconsin [yes indeed, Country Western theme]). It prompted me to dig out my version made with a point and shoot. So it is a throwdown between a point and shoot and an iPhone. What I know for sure is that I will never eat from this place again.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


Jim and Jody 1994, JoAnn Verburg

I find that it is not uncommon for ideas from a variety of sources converge/cross/intermingle on the Web. Tim Archibald has struggled anew on his Echolilia series and the Conscientious Group is discussing Photography and Literature. In the midst of these discussions Brian Ulrich has posted on Click: Photography Changes Everything. Under the Who We Are category is a short piece by poet Jim Moore, husband and frequent subject of JoAnn Verburg, titled Photography Changes How We Perceive Ourselves. He closes with his poem The Portrait which describes the experience of being The Subject.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Holga video

Tom Waits |MTV Music

Thanks to A Photo Editor I was able to enjoy this video. For those of you that don't know, this blog was named for a line in a Tom Waits song.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day 2008

I left my house very early this morning to drive 30 miles East to Racine to volunteer for the Obama campaign. I walked 5 miles going door to door on a truly spectacular Wisconsin November day to encourage people to, or thank people for, vote(ing). I was able to meet people of every age, economic level and racial or cultural heritage. I then went to Racine Obama headquarters and made 250 phone calls. It was a great way to feel that I had done everything I could do. To remove the possibility that if the very worst happens I might say, if only I had....

I came home to my town and walked over to the Village Hall to photograph the long line of voters. Here you see it. One of the lovely, hardworking poll workers told me to come back at 4:30 for the expected after work crowd (our polls stay open until 8:00 PM). Our Village Administrator told me over 50% of our registered voters had voted early (in the last few weeks) so the lines were indeed greatly eased.

I am hoping that I (and most of my readers from what I can tell) go to bed with a smile on my face. I will end with a quote by T. S. Elliot that I believe will apply to an Obama presidency.

immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different

-t.s. eliot

Monday, November 3, 2008

Waiting to exhale

These are some of the images that come up in a search of Google Images and Flickr on the word exhale. I am waiting to exhale.