Archive for August 2008

The number ‘21’ can mean many different things. It’s 7 x 3 or 15 + 6. It’s the name of a card game (aka Blackjack). It’s the minimum legal age to drink alcoholic beverages in some places. It’s the name of an exclusive restaurant here in New York, and it’s also the title of a 1991 film starring the English actress Patsy Kensit.

The ‘21’ that I’m writing about now is none of those. It’s about pounds. No, not Sterling, the currency used in Great Britain, but the measure of weight – and the 21 pounds I’m writing about is how much weight I’ve now lost since I decided to slim down a few months ago. When I began in April or May, I tipped the scale at 190 lbs. This morning, I weighed in at 169. I haven’t weighed this little in a long time.

Actually, it wasn’t too long ago (or so it seems) that my weight wasn’t that bad, but I must have let things get out of control as I needed to go to a pants size two inches bigger a few years ago. I had tried to cut down a few times (trying to eat more veggies, etc), but it never really got me anywhere.

So, how have I managed it this time? Very simple: by eating less. When I was diagnosed with a stomach problem several months ago, I decided that it was finally time to take losing weight seriously, and as previous attempts went nowhere, I decided that simply eating less would be the best way to do it. When I saw the comedian David Brenner in Las Vegas a few years ago, he joked that if people wanted to lose weight, they should have their friends spit on half of their food when they go out to eat. (You've heard of the Low Fat Diet? I call mine the Low Food Diet.)

Another thing that helps is that I’ve pretty much cut out noshing (i.e. snacking). My doctor has advised me to not eat anything within at least three hours of going to bed (to allow food to be fully digested, I guess), so late night snacks are a thing of the past. Just last week, while watching the ball game on TV, I was tempted to sit down in front of the tube with a big bowl of ice cream (as I used to do) to watch the Mets try close out the ninth inning and win it. Well, I sat down and watched – but the ice cream stayed safely in the freezer.

Earlier this year, my friend Dave Levingston posted some photos of himself before and after he’d gotten a haircut. I didn’t take any photos before starting my diet to use as in a before/after comparison, but I did take some photos when I was wired to a heart monitor in April. I’ve decided to use one of those for the comparison you see here. Sure, I’m sucking in my gut in the After photo, but I was doing the same thing in the Before photo, too!

Ultimately, I think I’d like to go down to 165 lbs., which is what had been for a long time years ago, but I’m not in a hurry. As I said when I began this quest, I just want to fit into my old pants the way I used to – and now I pretty much think that I can.

(By the way, the photo at the top is of Candace Nirvana – someone who definitely does not need to lose any weight.)

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Here are a couple of photos that I made at the workshop in Colorado earlier this month with Kim Weston as instructor. I had originally hoped to post four photos – one of each of the workshop’s models – but I’m not happy with the way the scans for two of them turned out so those will have to wait. I’ve developed six of the fourteen rolls I shot at the workshop but really haven’t had the time to go over them properly. That won’t happen fully until all of the rolls are developed and filed.

On that subject, I’m happy to write that I’ve finally finished filing all of my photos from last year’s trip to Tibet. I’ve also filed three from this year’s trip to Southeast Asia. Once I’ve finished filing the other nine developed rolls from the trip, I should start to develop more shortly thereafter. I did a count yesterday of just how many I have left to develop, and right now, that number is 58, with 24 from Southeast Asia and the remainder being nudes.

I also need to organize my negatives better. A few years ago I began labeling each film binder box with the numbers of the pages contained within and what’s on those pages. I really need to continue not only doing that, but to make a list of those binders with what’s on them. That way, if I want to look for a negative from a particular event, I’d be able to locate it much more quickly. Hopefully it’ll happen one day, sooner rather than later.

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Ivona Kirovska

Born: 07.10.1992
Place: Skopje
Height: 168 cm
Bust: 83 cm
Waist: 63 cm
Hips: 90 cm
Hair Color: Brown
Eye Color: Brown-green
Title: Miss Moto Beauty-Macedonia(2008)

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I’m a sports fan, and in years past, I’ve spent a lot of time watching the Olympic games. For some reason, though, I haven’t watched the current summer Olympics going on in Beijing.

Maybe it’s because of the rampant commercialism now associated with the event. In ancient times, the Greeks held the Olympic games (in a place called Olympia) to honor the gods on Mount Olympus. Today’s Olympics seem to be more interested in honoring the great god Mammon. While there have been many wonderful athletic achievements – such as Michael Phelps, his eight gold medals and his 12,000 calorie daily diet – the latest story I saw about Phelps was about how he’s poised to strike it rich with endorsements.

Beijing, China, 2007

Conversely, a front page photo in the NY Times of the injured Chinese track star Liu Xiang had a caption informing readers of how much of a goldmine he’s likely to lose out on by not competing. It would seem that the modern Olympic mission of “going for the gold” (for some, anyway) involves going for the pot of gold rather than just a medal.

I actually feel that there’s a connection of sorts between the games and amateur photographers like me. The modern Olympics began, as I understand it, as a way to honor amateur athletes: men and women who engaged in their sport of choice out of love for that sport. People whose goal was not necessarily monetary but who aimed for a personal sense of achievement and satisfaction – and yes, with perhaps a little bit of glory if they were successful. In a way, I liken myself to those amateur Olympic competitors of yore – I do my photography in my spare time not for money but for a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. (Of course, the old system was never fair, with the Soviet bloc countries entering athletes who may not have been technically pros but effectively were. As I used to say, they weren’t professionals; they only earned their living at it. The system needed to be changed, but the “dream teams” of millionaire pro athletes who compete now don’t appeal to me, either.)

Tsedang, Tibet, 2007

Still, there are probably other reasons why I haven’t been watching: I’ve been busy developing film and scanning negatives; the Mets are doing well this year so I’ve been watching baseball instead; a friend of mine told me that the Olympic coverage on TV here has gone from an international focus to an American focus since the NBC network took over from ABC; and I figure that a lot of events are tape delayed rather than being broadcast live.

There is also, I think, a much bigger reason: I just can’t get excited over watching these games knowing that the communist Chinese government got away with pulling a big fast one. The Chinese people are the heirs to a very ancient and very rich culture, and they certainly deserve their spotlight on the world stage. In order to be awarded the games, the government made certain promises about allowing more freedoms at home and giving journalists open access to talk to people, etc. From what I’ve read, very little of these promises have been kept – in good measure because the International Olympic Committee and the games’ corporate sponsors let them get away with it. I guess they were ultimately just interested in the money rather than what some would call ‘Olympic ideals.’ Beijing, China, 2007

The government in Beijing has been making a great effort to project the face of a happy, perfect country to the world (replacing a little girl to sing the national anthem because she wasn’t considered to be cute enough, for example). I suppose that every country hosting an event wants to do that, but in the current case, the Chinese government also seems intent on making us forget what else it’s been up to. You know – thing like supporting murderous governments abroad such as in Sudan (i.e. Darfur), Burma (i.e. the military junta) and Zimbabwe (i.e. Robert Mugabe), in addition to its appalling human rights record at home.

For example, two Chinese women, ages 77 and 79, were recently sentenced to one year of “patriotic re-education through labor.” Their crimes? These two elderly women had the audacity to apply for permits to protest the demolition of their homes to make way for development. The Chinese government set up three areas in public parks in which people can hold protests, but a permit to protest is needed – and not only have no such permits been issued, people applying for them have apparently been arrested, too!

No country is perfect, of course. As a U.S. citizen, I am not exactly proud of the Bush administration’s record, either, but as I've seen written recently, however bad Bush and company may be, they’re choir boys compared to the likes of the Chinese and the Russians.

Lhasa, Tibet, 2007

Then, of course, there’s Tibet. (You knew Id’ be getting there eventually, didn’t you?) As a photographer, I don’t consider myself to be a photojournalist – at least not in the sense of one who covers political events. My interest is in culture and people. Like the Chinese, the Tibetans also have a very old, unique culture that should be celebrated and preserved – but it’s the current policies of the Chinese in Tibet that put that culture at risk.

Still, there may yet be some hope. Some recent pieces in the NY Times written by Nicholas Kristof indicate that the Tibetan’s leader in exile, the Dalai Lama, has said openly that he’s willing to accept Tibet as part of Communist China. Kristof wrote that in return, the Chinese need to put an end to their policies that put Tibetan culture at risk, such as high-scale immigration from China into Tibet. Apparently there’s some talk about the Dalai Lama visiting China for the first time since 1959 to attend ceremonies marking six months since the occurence of the devastating earthquake in Sichuan Right now, he wrote, it’s up to the Chinese to take this offer seriously or to continue doing things as they are. One way has the possibility of being an an equitable, workable solution to the Tibet problem. The other way is – well, we know that way already, don’t we?

(Note: After writing the last two paragraphs, I read Kristof’s latest comments on the Times website. The Chinese have made their first comments on the issue, and while he wrote that the Chinese comments about the Dalai Lama have not been as venomous as they usually are, their negative tone is very disappointing.)

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Born: 1992
Place: Skopje
Height: 180 cm
Bust: 89 cm
Waist: 63 cm
Hips: 92 cm
Hair Color: Blondee
Eye Color: Brown
Title: Miss Summer-Macedonia(2008)

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Followers of my blog may remember that I wrote in April of a photographic outing with my friend Terrell (Big T) Neasley and his Las Vegas Art Models Group. (Click here to flash back to it.) Terrell had asked me to come along to give advice and pointers on photography to those who were looking for such things, and I readily agreed. I told Terrell that I wasn’t planning to do any shooting myself - both to lighten my own load and to not get in the way of the other photographers – but he twisted my arm so painfully (figuratively speaking, of course) that I was forced to relent and cry “Uncle!”

Well, I finally developed the three rolls of film that I shot that day of Lydia and scanned some of those negatives yesterday. I’m presenting some of them here today for the world and especially for Terrell to see, as I know that he’s been waiting to see them. It’s not easy photographing in a group with one model so I don’t know how he’ll rate these compared to my other work, but I guess I’ll just have to wait now to find out.

In other film news, I’ve also developed some of the rolls from my recent trip to Colorado. I’m sure that the models are looking forward to seeing some of the images from the workshop, so I thought I’d give them a chance to see some of my work sooner rather than later. It’ll also give me a chance to show some images to other people involved in the workshop, as well as to the readers of my blog. Expect to see some of these photos soon.

I am planning to take a break from film developing for a little while to catch up on my filing. As I wrote recently, I’m still working on finishing the filing of most of my Tibet photos from last year. When I do get back to developing, it will once again be in sequential order – first with the photos from Southeast Asia, then the figure work that I’ve not gotten to yet.

I received a nice e-mail recently from Jeff M. in Auburn, California. He wrote:

“I wanted to thank you for creating and writing such an entertaining and usefull blog. I really enjoy your work and insights. It's a vast improvement over the inane material on the rest of the web.”

Once again, Jeff, I thank you very much for your kind words. I’m sure I’m not the only blogger who wonders if anybody ever bothers to read what we write, so your comment is greatly appreciated. I hope that my answer to your question about scanning negatives was useful.

I also added another book to my photo book collection. I have a large collection, but as I’m running out of room, I need to carefully consider what else to get. On a recent visit to the Strand Book Store – a venerable New York City institution with the slogan “18 miles of books” – I picked up a copy of American Photographs 1900/2000. It’s a very heavy tome with a double fold-out front cover, and the pages include over 200 mostly B&W images from the worlds of fine art, photojournalism and fashion. It has a lot of iconic images from the 20th Century, so I’m looking forward to sitting down and going through this book in greater detail.

Finally, yesterday was a nice day here, so I decided to take a long walk after I scanned the photos you see here. I decided to walk to Coney Island and back – a stroll of close to five miles. I grew up down the block from Astroland, the amusement park that is scheduled to close forever at the end of this summer season due to redevelopment, so I took a slow walk through the place for what will likely be the last time.

Before going to Astroland, I walked on the boardwalk as far as the Parachute Jump and the Coney Island Pier. It was near that point that I saw a woman photographing another woman sitting on a bench. She was taking a lot of pictures, using a flash, and she was very close to her subject, so I figure that she had to have been using a wide angle lens. She was a middle aged woman wearing eyeglasses, and with dark hair braided in the back. She wore a press card around her neck. Around her were several younger people holding clipboards with papers on them. I guessed that these papers were model releases, so I assumed that these photos were being done for some serious purpose.

The photographer looked familiar to me, so I went over to a couple of the young people and I asked, “Is that Mary Ellen Mark?” The answer was “Yes.” I thought that maybe her next project was on Coney Island, but they told me that it was something for the USA Network (hence the model releases) photographing people in New York City. So, it just goes to show you:

You never know who – or what – you’ll come across in New York.

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Iva Kanceska

Magdalena Velova

Irena Ampova

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Another quick update here tonight.

Yesterday, I finally finished work on the slideshow DVD that I’ve been putting together to be shown at the Community Zoe get-together next month. It took a long time to assemble, and I scanned a lot of photos so I could add new material to it, but hopefully it will go over well with the audience and the effort will have been worth it. I’d actually thought that it was finished two days ago, but looking at again, I decided to make the effort to tweak it just a little more.

Now that I’m done with that, I can try to take care of other things that need taking care of around here. Lately I’ve been developing film from my figure shoots this year, so now I hope to go back to taking care of the film from my trip to Southeast Asia earlier this year. I’ll probably take a break from film developing next week, as I still have a lot of film to file away (including most from my trip to Tibet last year).

Today's posting is a photo of Kat, made during my trip to California last month.

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This week saw the 63rd anniversary of the beginning of the end of the Second World War. On August 6, 1945, an American B-29 bomber named the Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, Japan – ushering the world into the age of nuclear combat.

The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and - a few days later - Nagasaki, most likely saved a lot of lives, both Allied and Japanese. The alternative was a full scale land invasion of Japan, and the Japanese would not have given up easily at all. Even after the two atomic bombs, a faction of the Japanese military dedicated to fighting to the end tried to find and destroy the surrender papers before Emperor Hirohito could sign them the following day. (They failed, of course, but killed the captain of the palace guard in the process.)

Nonetheless, thousand of people were killed by the blast – about 80,000 directly and perhaps more than 100,000 in total by the end of the year from the effects of radiation and injury, according to one study. Most of them, naturally, were civilians.

In May 2005, during my second visit to Japan, I visited Hiroshima for a few days. Here’s an excerpt from the e-mail I wrote to friends and acquaintances giving my thoughts about the visit to this city forever linked to world history.

"Hiroshima is, naturally, a city of some contrasts. I arrived a bit after noon today, following a nearly five hour rail journey from Tokyo. It`s a modern city like any other in Japan - but of course one with a past. I saw that past immediately when I looked out of the window of my 12th floor hotel room. There below me was the river. Across it was the island containing Peace Park and the Peace Museum, and to the right on my side of the river was the Genbaku Domo - known in English as the A-Bomb Dome.

"One thing that`s hard not to notice is the presence of school children here - there must be more school kids here
per square meter than any other place in Japan excluding schools themselves. The kids are really cute. As I was walking through the park, some of them approached me for a class assignment, so I answered some questions, followed by a whole series of photos being taken with different cameras. After going to the stadium to buy my ticket for the (baseball) game, I walked back to the park to go to the museum. A bit of reality came to the fore - in front of the Cenotaph memorial to those who perished here 60 years ago, about two dozen very elderly Japanese people, all in wheelchairs, were wheeled in turn to the monument to make an offering and say prayers. I have to think that these were survivors from that day and it gave me pause to think.

"Indeed, I had thought earlier of my visits to Berlin before and after the wall had come down - how standing at Checkpoint Charlie today one cannot really imagine what it was like back in the days of the divided city. For Hiroshima that lack of true understanding must be even greater.

"The Peace Museum is of course something of a misnomer as it`s mostly about the effects of atomic war. At first I was a bit disappointed. The museum tells of the history of the city, the atomic bomb explosion and the current nuclear proliferation in the world. It was mostly cold numbers. What grabbed me was the final part of the museum walk-through, with stories of individual people - many of them junior high school age children - who perished in the blast and afterwards. We see tattered clothing that they wore, items that they used - the only thing that is left of them.

"All stories are heart rending - I constantly was reaching for my handkerchief to wipe my nose - but some stand out, like the mother who always blamed herself later for killing her teenage daughter by making her go into the city when she didn`t feel well and wanted to stay home, or the story of the woman who went searching for her missing husband, finally climbing through the rubble of his office building to find a skeleton sitting at his desk. Then there`s Sadako, the girl who died of leukemia ten years later, having folded paper cranes believing that if one folded 1000 cranes, one`s wishes would come true."

The photos posted are (from the top down): the Genbaku (A-Bomb) Dome; a photo of Hiroshima shortly after the bomb blast; school kids in front of the museum (yes, they horse around, too); a school group posing for a photo in front of the A-Bomb Dome; miniature kokeshi dolls and paper cranes made by Sadako; the Memorial Cenotaph, with a view toward the A-Bomb Dome.

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I returned home yesterday evening following my trip to Fort Collins, Colorado, to attend the reception for the Artful Nude photo exhibition (that includes two of my photos) at the Center for Fine Art Photography on Friday night. I was also one of the participants in the photo workshop with Kim Weston (Edward’s grandson) that was held Saturday and Sunday.

Overall, I had a very enjoyable time. It felt good to see two of my photos on the wall (see above) with a lot of other good images and to hear what people thought about my work. Of course, it was also good to just talk about photography in general with many of the people there.

The workshop had about ten participants with four models. Most of the photography took place indoors in the house outside of Fort Collins that had a lot of interesting spots. The house is the home of a local artist and his wife and at the end of the workshop, he thanked everybody for pointing out to him good spots for his own photography that he’d never considered before.

One of the other participants told me that he was familiar with my work, having seen it online, and that he was happy to see some of my actual prints. Overall, everyone get along pretty well and I think all were satisfied at the end of the weekend. I went through 14 rolls of 220 film and I think I got some good images (the digital snapshots here are a hint of that), but of course I won’t know for certain until the film is developed.

Fort Collins itself is also a very pretty and pleasant town, which added to my enjoyment of the weekend. I’ll have to see if I can get more of my work exhibited there.

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