Archive for December 2008

So, here we are at the beginning of the final week of 2008. We’re getting close to the end of this year and the beginning of the next – and, thankfully, to the end of the Bush administration and the beginning of Obama’s, as well.

I worked another ten hour day today (and may put in eleven hours tomorrow) as I still have plenty of work to do at the office. At least it should all be over by the end of next week. I don’t get paid for overtime as it’s not mandatory, but I do want to try to finish my work as a matter of personal pride (though it’s not the fault of me or my co-workers that management gave out the work nearly two months late this year). I do get compensated with Comp Time, and I’ve already earned another week’s worth of vacation time so far. By the time it’s all done, I may have about two and a half extra weeks in total – perhaps even close to three – and the thought of getting away helps to keep me going.

Of course, one cannot live on dreams alone. So, this weekend I managed to do something so unusual that I can’t remember the last time I did it: I managed to get to bed by 11:00 pm two nights in a row. That’s very early for me, I’m sorry to say, but I need to get enough rest if I’m going to be working so many extra hours. I’ll see if I can keep it up even after I return to a normal schedule. (Staying away from the computer and the internet will certainly help!)

I guess I should chime in with my reaction to the new 2257 record-keeping requirements here in the U.S. for photographers who photograph nude (or even clothed) models. Dave Swanson and Stephen Haynes have made some posts that go into detail about this (read them here and here).

Essentially, I am as outraged by this as most other art photographers seem to be. The idea that one could get locked away for five years and labeled a sex offender for failing to keep proper records and make them available for inspection for 20 hours a week, all because someone considers one of their fine art images to be a “lascivious exhibition of the pubic area,” is actually beyond outrageous.

As others have noted, the wording of the new rules is so vague that it can encompass almost everything. The use of the word “lascivious” reminds me of a scene from the crazy 1960’s film, What’s New, Pussycat. Peter Sellers is in it as a wacky, long-haired German psychiatrist who likes to chase after beautiful young women. When his fat, opera singer wife catches him at it, she shouts out to him, “Lascivious adulterer! Lascivious adulterer!”

“Silence when you’re shouting at me!!!” he retorts. “Don’t call me that until I’ve had a chance to look up what it means!” So, he opens up a dictionary and reads from it, “A lascivious adulterer is a person who is a lascivious adulterer.”

Well, if Peter Sellers’ dictionary couldn't give a more specific meaning, do you think the U.S. government will? All this is supposed to protect children from being involved in pornography, of course – just as illegally spying on American citizens is supposed to protect us, too. It’s as if, just because we’re photographers, we are automatically suspected of being involved in kiddy porn and thus are being forced to wear electronic bracelets to trace of each and every move we make, even though we have done nothing at all wrong.

Of course, the government claims that it has to do this to protect the kids. So what if innocent people are grossly inconvenienced – or sent to prison and labeled as sex offenders – if it will keep the real bad guys away from the little ones? This is like saying that if a mass murderer who is supposed to be executed is hiding out in a crowd of 100 people, it is perfectly reasonable to put all 100 people to death just to make sure that one murderer is dealt with properly. So what if 99 innocent people are killed in the process? It’s all for the public good, isn’t it???

I would like to think that people who do fine art nudes wouldn’t fall into the porno category which these rules are supposed to target. Still, if “one man’s meat is another man’s poison,” one can equally say that one man’s art is another man’s pornography. Just ask Jock Sturges – or just ask the fine art photographers like me who had our blogs labeled as having “objectionable” content. I’d like to think that the Obama administration will have better things to do than to pick on art photographers, but who knows when another ideological conservative like John Ashcroft will become Attorney General???

I mentioned these new rules to a friend of mine who is politically conservative but even he admitted that the whole purpose seems to be to throw cold water on the idea of anybody photographing nudes, period. While I understand that child pornography is a reprehensible thing and that it's the responsibility of the government to combat it, it is also wrong to try to do so by attempting to abolish all forms of nude art through difficult-to-follow regulations. (At the Olympics in Beijing this year, people wanting to protest were nominally permitted to protest publicly at certain locations, but the process one had to follow to get the permits to do it was so onerous as to be impossible - and not a single person ended up being allowed to protest.)

Hopefully, common sense will prevail before too long. Stephen’s post dealt with a court case challenging the 2257 rules, and in the last round the court ruled against the government and the rules. We can only hope that it will stand up in the next round.

The other good thing (if one can call it that) is that – if I understand it correctly – those new regulations only apply to images made in camera on or after March 18, 2009. Therefore, any photos taken before then – even if they will be published or displayed after that date – are not subject to these new regs. As it happens, I’ve been photographing nudes since 1995 and have one helluva backlog – not just of a few months worth of film to develop, but of years and years worth of photos to print. The photos I’m posting tonight were made at a workshop in upstate New York ten years ago, and I have only printed one of them. (There are plenty more just of this model alone.)

Still, although I’ve said that I probably won’t take any new photos until at least May, perhaps I’ll try to squeeze in another photo session or two with a model before the middle of March – just in case.

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Natalija Grubovik Photos

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So, today is December 25 – the time around which the ancient Romans celebrated the pagan festivals of the Saturnalia and Sol Invictus, which the Christians basically took over and turned into Christmas in the fourth century. Whatever it may be, it gave me the chance to sleep late today, and in my book, that itself is reason enough to celebrate. I hope that most of you reading this out there in bloggie land got to sleep late, too, and whether you celebrate Christmas, Chanukah, the Saturnalia or even Festivus, I hope that you have had a most enjoyable day.

I’ve mentioned before that this is the busiest time of the year at my office and that I've been working overtime lately, so I even volunteered to go in today as I had no specific plans here at home. I was told that nobody else was going in and that I should not do so, leaving me to take care of some things here. I’d thought of filing some more negatives from my trip to Laos earlier this year, but instead I decided to think forward and looked up some hotels online for one of the places I’m thinking of visiting next year.

Then I copied some music from some of my CDs and put together another compilation disc of opera favorites – I’m listening to the results now as I write this – and went through some of the mail that piled up over the past week.

Despite not filing any negatives today, I did find the time to scan a few negatives from my trip to Scotland in 2004, where I photographed the English model Alison up in the Highlands. They’re here for you to see now, so enjoy.

Enjoy the rest of the holiday season, too, everybody.

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Stefanija Binoska (19) - Miss of the year

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Today is Sunday and I stayed home. After putting in four ten hour days at the office this past week, plus another eight hours of overtime yesterday, it was good to be able to sleep late and try to take it easy. Still, there were things to be done, like going through the pile of papers that had stacked up on my desk.

I also did some photographic work, finally writing out numbers and labels for all of the binders that hold my negatives. Still, the more daunting task lies ahead as far as that goes: going through all of the pages, writing down the dates, locations and subject matter, then typing it all into a spreadsheet so I can look up photos and find them more easily.

I received some positive comments regarding my last post and the images I posted with it – that is, some of the photos I saw at Christie’s auction house last weekend. I wasn’t sure if people would want to see such things, but I just want to give readers of my blog a chance to see some of the beautiful images that I’ve seen and perhaps widen their knowledge of different photographers.

Of course, the problem with doing what I did is to decide what to follow up with. After all, the likes of Helmut Newton, Richard Avedon and Jeanloup Sieff are hard acts to follow when it comes to images of the nude. So what did I decide to do?

Well, as you can see, I’ve chosen not to post any nudes this time. It’s been a while since I posted any of my photos from Asia, so I’m doing so now. I checked to see what I had scanned and saw that I had none from my trip to Laos earlier this year. That’s not surprising. Even though all of that film has been developed, only a couple of rolls have been filed. I chose to scan some negatives from the first page of that trip, all of them taken in the Lao capital city, Vientiane. They’re here for you to see now.

If you’re reading this now, you should already know that you have to deal with an adult content warning page to get to the blog page. That page wasn’t really put up by choice. It was just done to replace a similar page – you know, the one that said that people had complained about it. I don’t remember it exactly, but the wording went something like this: “Some of the readers of this have complained the material contained is objectionable.” That’s what they say. Here’s what I have to say about it: “Bullshit!”

Readers of this blog? Readers???!!! I think it’s pretty safe to say that all of the readers of this blog have no problem with the things I post. I dare say that many would be disappointed if I didn’t post what I do. If any people found it objectionable, then they could always choose to not visit the blog any more, and they wouldn’t be “readers.”

After I saw that my blog had been singled out, I happened to mention it to my friend Dave Levingston on the phone. He told me that he hadn’t looked at my blog yet that day, but said that the “church ladies” had found me. Then while we were still on the phone he told me that his blog had been given the objectionable label, too! (Some of you may have already read his account of it. If you haven’t, you can see it here.) Anyway, Dave suggested that I post the adult content warning, “adult” obviously being a better word than “objectionable.”

So, this all begs the question of why non-readers would make a fuss about it when they could simply go away and not look. I suppose it goes back to something that Lin of Fluffytek wrote about recently (read it here) – how it just bugs some people no end that others have no hang-ups with showing nudity, that they actually seem to have fun producing nude art and that they themselves must absolutely do something to rain on these other people’s parade.

Now, I have no problem with some people disagreeing with what I do. I’m sure that I disagree with things that they do (probably things like voting for George Bush and Sarah Palin). Still, there is something wrong when close-minded people who probably have brains the size of a pea (I’m talking collectively, not individually) can do something like this.

I just wonder what will be next. Putting up a content warning at the entrance to the Metropolitan Museum of Art because of all of the nude statues and paintings on display?

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Slikite se izbrisani po baranje na Valentina T.
The photos have been removed at the request of the model

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I began working overtime at my office yesterday and put in my first ten-hour day of this year’s busy season. I’ll probably have to put in the same hours just about every day for the next four weeks to try to finish all of my work on time (plus some time on weekends, too).

So, that pretty much means that developing film is out of the question until I return to a normal schedule, and I won’t have much if any time for filing negatives, either. I will still try to scan some film now and then so I can post some previously unseen work of mine here. The image at the top is one from my series with Carlotta in the Nevada desert in the spring of 2006. (To be honest with you, I don’t remember if I’ve posted it here before, so please forgive me if I have.)

I haven’t done much with my own photography the past week or so, but I did go out into Manhattan on Sunday to see a display of several hundred photos that are being auctioned off at Christie’s at Rockefeller Center this week. Sunday was going to be a day to take it easy and rest at home (well, except for doing the laundry), but when I read about the photo sale and saw the photos online at Christie’s website (click here to see them yourself), I just had to go out and see the actual prints for myself.

Unlike the auctions normally scheduled for April and October, this is one couple’s private photo collection, consisting primarily of fashion, nude and celebrity images. There were plenty of Helmut Newton photos to see, as well as a great deal of photos of Marilyn Monroe. (Regarding Newton, you really haven’t experienced his work until you’ve been in a relatively small room with several 6 ½ foot high silver prints from his Big Nudes series staring down at you.) There were also quite a few photos by Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Horst P. Horst and Jeanloup Sieff. I bought the catalog, which is about an inch thick.

I actually met and spoke for a few minutes with the owner of the prints, Mr. Leon Constantiner. I basically thanked him for allowing the public to see his wonderful collection of photos, and we talked about a few of the photos. I specifically pointed out to him Rudolph Koppitz’s classic 1925 photo, Movement Study, which is one of my all-time favorite nude images. This is the one with a nude dancer with her back bent, highlighted in front of three other dancers dressed in black. It’s a stunning composition, and though I’ve seen it in books before, I don’t know if I’d ever seen an actual print of it.

I also remember one other thing he said to me: don’t buy art because of its investment value. If you’re going to buy something, he said, get it because you love it.
So, you can see all of the images on Christie’s website, but here below are just a few for you to see here and now. Enjoy.


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Model: Martina Pavlovska
Last photo by Giovanni Aponte
Technorati Tags: , , , , .

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The photo you see here at the top is one I made of model Kerie Hart a couple of years ago using Kodak 35mm infrared film. It has absolutely nothing to do with today's posting, but I thought I'd put it up for people to see, anyway. I hope that nobody minds.

Now, down to business.

It’s been a very busy week since I made my last posting seven days ago. The busiest part was the weekend, during which time I flew to Las Vegas to visit family for a few days. I left from JFK airport here in New York on Friday night and returned home late Monday night.

On Saturday morning in Vegas I met my friend Terrell Neasley for breakfast, and then I joined him in hanging out with his group of photo friends at a local camera store. He also joined me for a show with a couple of his friends on Saturday night. (That's yours truly on the left in the photo and "Big T" on the right, for those who don't know.)

As I told Terrell, I plan to return in the spring, at which time we should head out with a couple of models so we can do some photography together alone and not in one of his workshop groups.

(By the way, for those of you who may be interested, Terrell now has a beard. I realized it right away upon seeing him. It took me a while to also notice that he has hair on top of his head, too.)


The other big event of the week was the 12th annual Friends of Friends photo auction held Tuesday night to benefit the Angkor Hospital for Children in Cambodia. I bought a print from this auction its very first year in 1997, and then again a couple of years later. I’m pretty sure that I attended another one after that, probably the following year, but I can’t recall going to another one after that. As I’m trying to get back into the New York photography world and also have been trying to add to my collection, I made a point of showing up this year.

I’m not sure if I was surprised or not, but several people who I knew but hadn’t seen in quite a few years remembered me – and not just my face, but my name, as well. I thought that was good of them to do so. Of course, the oddest point of recognition came when someone asked me if I was Rick Wester, the auctioneer for the evening’s live auction segment.

I decided to wear my dark blue suit that night, so I guess I looked better than I normally do, but I had never expected to be mistaken for a photography dealer and the former head of photography at one of the major auction houses. (I think Mr. Wester was the head of the photo department at Christie’s.) I told the inquiring gentleman that I was not Mr. Wester, but joked that if he didn’t show up, I’d take a shot at being the auctioneer if he wanted.

Finally, I asked him why he thought that I (of all the people there) was the evening’s auctioneer. He just told me that I was standing there, looking around, and appeared to be very knowledgeable. If only he knew the truth, I thought to myself, but perhaps having three university degrees has given me a certain air of knowing…LOL

Anyway, I gave out a fair amount of my new business cards at the event. One never knows who might be interested in one’s work. I also spoke with some of the people in charge of the event and volunteered to donate one of my photos to the auction next year. Certainly, being included in a major New York photographic event could help with name recognition for me. More importantly, I’ve been to Southeast Asia several times (and visited Cambodia for the first time this year) and saw the poverty that people live in there and can imagine how desperate the need for health care is. I’ve wanted to find a way to help, and giving to this organization to fund the children’s hospital in Cambodia seems like a good way to start. It’s just up to them to accept. I’m not represented by a gallery like most (or all) of the photographers whose work was on the walls, but they seemed receptive, especially to my photos of Asia.

As for the auction itself, I went home with a couple of photos. One of them was a photo of the Brooklyn Bridge that was on my top three list. It was made in 1983 by a photographer named Bruce Cratsley. I had purchased one of his photos at another benefit auction eleven years ago, and even met him at that event. Sadly, he passed away the following year, as I recall, so I’m glad to have another of his prints. I already had another photo of the Brooklyn Bridge in my collection, so perhaps I can make it the subject of a sub-collection. After all, I’ve lived all of my life in Brooklyn and I am proud of our world famous bridge!!!

The other photo I got was a very nice print of a photo made in Burma by a photographer named Monica Denevan. I looked at her website last night and I see that she has some fine series of work from Burma and China. You should take a look. The only problem with her print is that its matte size is 22 x 24 – an unusual size – so I had to go out and buy a new frame especially for it. Of course, I could have just opted to cut a standard 20 x 24 matte for it that would fit into one of my frames and portfolio boxes, but I figure Ms. Denevan wanted it 22 x 24 for a reason, so I respect that and will keep it that way.

This reminds me of a story regarding the collected works of the great early 20th Century photographer Alfred Steiglitz. After his passing, his widow – the painter Georgia O’Keeffe – wanted to donate his collected works to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Met, as the story goes, was grateful to have it, but told O’Keeffe that they would have to cut down the matte boards to fit their portfolio boxes. O’Keeffe didn’t like this idea, saying that the mattes were important to Steiglitz.

“But we did that to Rembrandt’s drawings,” the Met told her, to which she replied, “Yes, but you didn’t have Mrs. Rembrandt to deal with!” O’Keeffe ended up giving the collection to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, which agreed to keep the matte boards intact – and that’s how the Metropolitan lost out.

Finally, a tale of air travel. Stephen Haynes had written on his blog some time ago that he’d been given a set of noise-canceling headphones as a gift. At last, he wrote, he could listen to opera and classical music on airplanes with them. Well, last year I bought a pair of noise-canceling headphones, too, but had never really put them to the classical music test. When I travel domestically, I normally bring my portable DVD player with me, and for my trip this past weekend, I decided to give the ‘phones the opera test.

Flying to Las Vegas, I watched and listened to my DVD of Puccini’s Tosca, with Raina Kabaivanska as the singer Floria Tosca, Sherrill Milnes as the evil police chief Scarpia and a young Placido Domingo as the painter Mario Cavaradossi. This was a filmed version, recorded not on stage but at the actual locations in Rome set out in the story. On the return trip, I watched Verdi’s Rigoletto, featuring Ingvar Wixell as the hunchbacked title character, Edita Gruberova as his daughter Gilda, Ferruccio Furlanetto as the local assassin for hire, Sparafucile, and a young Luciano Pavarotti as the libertine, highly immoral Duke of Mantua. This version was also filmed on locations in Italy and certainly had a very medieval feeling about it. They were both very enjoyable to watch and can recommend them if you like such things.

“But what about the sound?,” you ask. Well, it sounded great. These headphones really do a very good job of getting rid of that annoying sound you hear on planes. Toggling the on/off switch for the noise-canceling function really demonstrates how much it does it.

And which headphones do I have? The best known of this type of headphones are probably the Bose QC headphones, but they’re rather expensive, listing at around $300 and up. Last year, I read a story in the NY Times that compared these headphones, and while it said that none were better than the Bose, some were just as good. I got one of those just-as-good ones – the Panasonic RP-HC500 headphones, which list for just $100. As I said, they really do a good job. Besides the price, they have another advantage over the Bose: if the AAA battery on the Panasonic should fail, the headphones still work as normal headphones; with the Bose, if the battery dies, the headphones die with them. (Well, one of the Bose uses a AAA battery. I think the other ones needs to be recharged directly and doesn’t use a battery.)

So, if you fly and like to listen to music or movies, or just want to relax without that annoying airplane (or other types of) noise, consider the Panasonics. I think you’ll be happy with them.

Now if only someone can develop headphones that would have blocked out the annoying sound of the screaming baby sitting in the row behind me that was annoying the hell out of me. Until that happens, I think airplanes should carry muzzles as standard equipment. (Well, either that or a brick.)

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Bella collection, Winter 2009

Bella collection, Spring 2008

Model: Jana Stojanovska
Photo: Bojan Endrovski
Brand: Bella

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