Archive for November 2009

Photographing nudes can be boring.

I will repeat that for anyone who had trouble understanding what I just wrote or who had trouble comprehending that I actually wrote it: photographing nudes can be boring.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I shall probably never tire of seeing the sight of a beautiful, nude woman before my eyes. Still, trying to create interesting works of art with it is another story entirely. I’ve been photographing nudes since 1995, and just a few years after I began, I started to ask myself how much longer I could go on photographing models in the same Edward Weston-type poses.

I thought those thoughts in regard to my outdoor nude photography. Now that I’ve been photographing more in my home studio set-up (for various reasons), with its small space and large limitations, it’s even worse. (I believe that this has been the first year in which I’ve shot more rolls of film of nudes in my studio than outdoors or any place else.) I feel like my studio work is little more than a nude girl standing in front of a backdrop – again and again and again. How much longer can I go on just making “pretty pictures”?

So, what’s to be done about it? Well, I’ve thought of using more props in my studio imagery. The problem there is that I have no place to keep such things. I bought a few papier mache masks in Venice this year and I don’t even know where to keep them.

Another thing I’ve been playing with is the multiple exposure technique. I’ve used it outdoors with some success and a bit in the studio, too. Then I hit upon a strange, new idea.

The idea came about by reading some blog postings discussing the pros and cons of models shaving off their pubic hair. (To me it is very much a con.) Then I thought of Marcel Duchamp’s drawing a beard and moustache onto a picture of the Mona Lisa. Add to that the old joke that my mother used to say: if Phyllis Diller had one more facelift, she’d have a beard.

So, I came up with the idea of using the double exposure technique to superimpose a model’s pubic hair onto her face to create something surreal, like the Duchamp.

I gave it my first try with a model who came to my studio this past summer. It’s not an easy thing to try to do. As I work with a tripod, it’s a real pain in the ass to have to lower and raise the tripod with every exposure to get it set at the right height. As my camera’s viewfinder does not have any grid lines that would allow me to register the overlay properly, I just have to try to remember where in the frame the important parts are supposed to go.

At the top here, you can see the result of that first effort. I made several different tries at this, and this is the one I think works the best. (I photographed another model with this method, but I haven’t developed that film yet. I purposely developed and scanned the photo you see here so I could show this second model exactly what I had in mind. She offered no objections.)

Was I successful with the photo you’re seeing here? Well, I do think it looks kind of surreal in the manner of the Duchamp. I think she might even fit in well with the Three Musketeers!

Still, while my intention was to create something absurd, bizarre, satiric or surreal, not everyone agrees that I did. I posted this photo on an art posting site a short time ago and I received a response from a woman who said she found the image to be offensive.

Well, as you can imagine, I was really taken aback by this. I mean, here I was – trying to create something in the same vein as Marcel Duchamp, and I get a reaction that’s more in line with the cover of Hustler showing a woman being put through a meat grinder. Marcel Duchamp and Larry Flynt. Does that make sense?

Therefore, I am asking you – my readers out there in bloggie land – to please give me some feedback here. Is there something about this image that’s offensive to women? Or is it more surreal than anything else? (Could it be both?)

Certainly, this is not the first instance when someone has tried to depict a woman as a man – or a man as a woman, for that matter. A few years ago I met a photographer who has gained a certain amount of recognition for photographing her middle-aged, bald-headed husband dressed up in women’s clothing and wearing women’s make-up. Did I get offended, as a man, by such images? Of course not. That’s her vision and let her go with it.

The one thing that the comment made me realize is that perhaps this kind of imagery contains a lot more power than I had initially thought. For that reason alone, I am even more determined to carry on with the series.

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The annual Photo Review benefit auction is taking place this Saturday night, November 21, in downtown Philadelphia, PA. You can find out more about it by clicking here.

Benefit auctions are a great place for collecting prints as prices are normally below market (often substantially so) and the proceeds go toward a worthwhile cause. Most of the prints in my collection have been purchased at such events.

This year, two of my own prints will be up for grabs. They are Nude, Joshua Tree, 2008, #1 (photo at the top) and Children, Lanten Village, Laos, 2006 (seen below). So, if anybody out there has wanted to get their hands on a genuine print from me, that I printed myself, here's your chance to do so at a discount. You can see and bid on the nude print by clicking here, and do the same for the travel image here.

Of course, you can bid on the other photos, too.

The past weekend was another one devoted in part to art. On Friday night I went to see the Modernism show at the Park Avenue Armory. I got a ticket for free admission that evening to attend a reception for the New York Academy of Art. (I guess I’m on the school’s mailing list, my having attended its own benefit auction last month.)

I didn’t stay very long at the reception, held by one of the dealers, but I spent most of my time walking around looking at what the other galleries and dealers had on display – a collection of paintings, furniture, jewelry, clothing, decorative lamps (think Tiffany) and so on.

One of the highlights for me was meeting “Kramer” – actor Michael Richards from Seinfeld. I was looking at some paintings and turned around to see someone who looked like Kramer. Then when I heard him speak, I realized that it really was Richards. I spoke with him briefly and told him that the painting of him from the TV show, “the Kramer,” should have been there. (For those who are wondering, yes – his hair really is like you see it on TV, though it wasn’t quite as wild as it sometimes was seen.)

On Saturday I had to go into Manhattan for a medical procedure, and decided to stay around to visit some galleries, too. By sheer coincidence, the first one I went to – the Old Print Shop - was having a reception for a new exhibit of contemporary prints soon after I arrived, so I stayed around for several hours. I have to say that it was one of the best times I’ve ever had at a gallery show opening party. Contrary to when I attend most such events at photography galleries – when I often stand around and ask myself why I’m even there - I actually spent most of the time talking with people, mostly about things like art.
I wasn't going to write about this, but I just watched Dancing With the Stars and am absolutely shocked by who was voted off tonight. Is there no justice???!!!

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I went on Saturday to the annual Print Fair of the International Fine Print Dealers Association (IFPDA), here in New York City at the Park Avenue Armory. I guess that the Armory has become the place in New York to hold art shows. This is also where AIPAD, the photography dealers group, has its big annual show.

This year was the first year that I attended the AIPAD photo show at the Armory (it having previously been held at the New York Hilton), and this weekend’s IFPDA show was very similar to the AIPAD show. The difference, of course, is that this time, the dealers had with them etchings, engravings, lithographs and the like (plus some drawings) rather than photographs.

As someone who is interested in different types of art, rather than just photographs, I thought I’d go to this show to learn more about the world of art prints and get familiar with the artists who created them. I’d done a little research on the web, looking up some dealers’ websites to look at what they had, but of course seeing an artwork for real is much better than seeing a reproduction on a computer screen.

The work presented in the show ranged from engravings by the likes of Rembrandt and Albrecht Durer right up to colorful contemporary pieces. Some of the small Rembrandt prints on display were absolute gems, with very fine details discernable despite their very small size.

Of course, there were plenty of works to be seen by such well known artists as Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, but what interested me most were wonderful works by some artists who I had never heard of before or who aren’t household names – people like Martin Lewis, Emil Ganso, Betty Waldo Parish, Benton Spruance, John Sloan, Wanda Gag, Ernest Fiene, Agnes Tait, Adolf Dehn, Marie Laurencin, Raphael Soyer, Albert Sterner and Eileen Soper.

Then there were the Japanese prints, which seem to be a whole world unto themselves.

Probably the one print that I had seen online and most wanted to see in person is the one at the top of this posting: “Shadow Dance,” a 1930 drypoint engraving by Martin Lewis. It’s a stunner – and I love the group of three women in sihouette on the right, each wearing their flapper hats and each caught in stride with a foot off the ground.

I also coined a new term: “print fair shoulder,” which I came up with following my original “art show shoulder.” Photo dealers keep their inventory of matted photos in transparent sleeves, with an identifying label either on the front or the back of the sleeve. Not so with print dealers, who don’t put the mattes in sleeves, but rather put a transparent sheet to cover the print beneath the window matte. (The identifying information is generally either on the back of the back matte or on the lower front of the back matte.) Therefore, as most of the mattes were taped on the left side, I would use my left hand to flip through the matted images – as my right hand would often grab only the front matte. So, after spending several hours using my left hand and arm to do this, my left shoulder eventually began to hurt from it all. Hence, the phrase.

Here, below, you can see some of my favorite images from the show, with the names of the artists beneath them. (Sadly, I was not able to find some others online, but at least I wasa able to find these.) Unfortunately, I had hoped that you'd be able to click on them to see them larger, but that function does not seem to be working for some reason.

Albert Sterner

Eileen Soper

Emil Ganso

Gerald Brockhurst

Hashiguchi Goyo

J. Jay McVicker


Leon Kroll

Mikio Watanabe

Raphael Soyer


Ryohei Tanaka

and, my favorite of this group,

Wanda Gag

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Ana KalacoskaAna Kalacoska

Ana KalacoskaAna Kalacoska

Ana KalacoskaAna Kalacoska

Ana KalacoskaAna Kalacoska

Model: Ana Kalacoska
Photos: Ani&Dimi
Clothes designer: Julie Aleksovska

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The power of Mammon was very evident here in New York City the past few days.

Yes, it has indeed been a very good week for big money. That is to say – big big big money! On Tuesday, multi-millionaire mayor Mike Bloomberg won re-election after spending tons and tons and still more tons of money on his campaign for about half a year. Then, last night, the New York Yankees, having spent tons and tons and still more tons of money on players, won the World Series.

Let’s start with the mayoral election. Bloomberg is estimated to have spent about 90 million dollars of his own money on his campaign. That means that he outspent his Democratic rival, Bill Thompson, by about 15 to 1. As I wrote last time, hardly a day has seemed to go by when I didn’t get a mailing or see a TV ad extolling the virtues of Bloomberg – always failing to mention his complete contempt for the voters of this city by overturning the term limits law the people voted for. In the days leading up to, and including, Election Day, there were Bloomberg people annoying me with the phone calls, too.

So, how’d he do in the election? Well, when he won re-election four years ago, it was by a margin of about 20 percent, and he and his people were looking for a similar blowout. So how much did he win by? Less than five percent. That’s right. After swamping his rival with 90 million dollars of advertising, Bloomberg won by less than five percent. I guess it’s a good thing for Mayor Mike that he didn’t spend only 70 million, because who knows? He might have lost!

Despite his winning, hopefully Bloomberg and people like him who place themselves above the voters will take this as a lesson. (Voting him out would have been an even better lesson.)

Now on to the Yankees. Unlike Bloomberg, who I fault for steamrolling over the voters to get a chance for a third term, it is the Yankees job to win every year. The problem is that it’s hard for any other team to compete given the difference in payroll. Unlike other pro sports, baseball has no salary cap, so the sky’s the limit.

Before the World Series started, I saw a statistic on TV showing the total players salaries of the two teams. The Yankees total was $145 million, as I recall. The Phillies - $58 million. (Or was it $85 million?) Either way, that is a huge difference, and it’s hard for any other team to have real chance. With the players that they pay, the Yankees ought to win every year.

The Yankees, being an American League team with the Designated Hitter (that is, a hitter – normally a good one with weak defensive skills – who bats in place of the pitcher but doesn't play the field) also had a big advantage. When the Series games are played in the National League park, the pitchers bat for themselves, as they do in the NL. (That, to me, is real baseball.) Most pitchers are not particularly good hitters, and I don’t think there’s that much of a quality difference between the batting skills of NL and AL pitchers.

In the American League park, however, the DH rule is in effect, and that’s where the big difference is. The Yankees’ DH was Hideki Matsui – an excellent power hitter who the Yankees can afford to pay millions of dollars to because he can come up to bat four or five times every game as a DH. I don’t know who the Phillies’ DH was, but you can bet he wasn’t as good as Matsui, because no NL team is going to pay a player millions a year just to sit on the bench and maybe get one at-bat a game during the regular season - and it's typically a bench player that NL teams use as their DH.

Oh, yes. There will be a parade for the Yankees tomorrow, culminating at City Hall, where the mayor will greet them. It’s only fitting - isn’t it? - given their mutual spending habits.

And for those who are wondering, that’s Joceline at the top showing how wonderful and desireable Mammon is.

On to something photographic, I went today to see the current show at the Soho Photo Gallery in Tribeca. This month, it’s the winners of the annual Alternative Photography competition. As I’ve said before, in an age when people are letting machines do the work by going digital, it’s good to see that some people are still committed to doing things hands on. There were some good platinum prints and cyanotypes, among other methods, but my favorite prints were those produced by the wet plate collodion process, which had a sheen, luster and richness to them unmatched by anything else.

Finally, something completely different. This is a story that is so touching that I had to pass it on, in case you haven’t already read about it yourself. Two years ago, a six year old girl in Ohio named Elena died of brain cancer. Her parents never told her the diagnosis, but she must have had an idea of what was going on, because she wrote and drew notes – hundreds of them – expressing her love for her parents and her family. She then hid those notes in the nooks and crannies of the family’s home, to wait to be discovered by her family after she was gone.

Now this story has gone public, and the family has published a book of the notes, with proceeds of the sales going to fight pediatric brain cancer. You can read the story here and read about the book here. Watch the video there, too - but be sure to have some tissues or a hanky nearby.

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Well, my family visitors all went back home this past weekend, so I’m trying to get back to normal here, including a return to making postings here on the blog.

The first of my visitors, before the family got here, was the model Nettie R. Harris. Nettie lives down in Louisiana and she stayed here for a few nights during her visit to New York.

Fortunately, we had the time to do a photo session here in my studio set-up. Nettie is a delightful young woman with a waif-like figure and I think we made some good images. I had planned to develop some of the film afterwards to show her the process and so she could see some of the results of our collaboration, but we got off to a late start and didn’t have time to take care of any film. (Well, we might have had some time, but I really did want to eat dinner.)

So, for now, I can just show a couple of quick snaps I made with my little digital camera. I’m also posting a photo of Nettie during a break in our session, holding up an appropriately named drink she had brought.
Today is Election Day in the United States. Here in New York, we are voting for mayor. It’s been hard to forget, as for the past half year or so it seems that hardly a day has gone by when I have not gotten something in my mailbox telling me how wonderful our incumbent mayor Michael Bloomberg is. An hour has hardly seemed to pass when I have not seen a television commercial (when I’ve been watching the tube) telling me how wonderful a mayor Michael Bloomberg has been.

Why not? Bloomberg is a multi-millionaire running for his third term, so why shouldn’t he toot his own horn so loudly? Of course, what he fails to tell us is that he has zero respect for the voters of this city. Zilch. Absolutely none. Why? The people of New York City voted not once but twice to enact term limits – in the case of the mayor, a maximum of two terms – but Bloomberg and his self-serving cohorts in the City Council voted to override the will of the people and voided the term limits legislation.

So, isn’t that nice? The people of this city enacted term limits, in part, to prevent somebody with a gazillion dollars from buying an election term after term, but that is exactly what Bloomberg is doing. I have no doubt that he will succeed – big money usually gets its way – but as far as I’m concerned, Bloomberg and every member of the City Council who voted with him on this (including my own bum of a councilman) should have their asses kicked out onto the street where they belong. Some of them have lost their council seats in the primaries, but it’s a shame that they all haven’t. Perhaps some will today.

The ironic thing is that the only reason Bloomberg got elected in the first place was because of term limits! Had it not been for term limits, Rudolph Giuliani would have definitely gotten re-elected mayor following the events of 9/11. Now that’s all been forgotten and Bloomberg's acting in a self-serving manner. The fact is that I agree with his anti-smoking and anti-gun policies and his putting an end to social promotion in schools. Still, I cannot support someone who shows nothing but contempt for the people he hopes to lead. Enough is enough!

Speaking of big money, the World Series continues. When I was a kid, the World Series was played in the daytime. It’s warmer in the daytime – and baseball is supposed to be a summer game – but now that the big event continues on into November, the games are played in the cold hours of the night. Why? Money, of course. Money in the form of television ratings. The players and the fans – and yes, the game itself – have to take a backseat to the needs of the TV networks. I guess that America’s real pastime is making money and disregarding everything else.

The Phillies won yesterday, so the action will return to the new Yankee Stadium in Da Bronx tomorrow for game 6. The Yankees hold a three game to two lead over the Phils, but I’m hoping Philadelphia will win.

I’m a Mets fan, and the Phillies are the Mets’ rivals, but I’m rooting for the Phillies anyway. For one, I am a fan of National League baseball, and I don’t believer in that Designated Hitter bullshit that the American League uses. Philadelphia is the National League champ (like it or not), so I’m behind them.

Second, I hate the Yankees more than any other sports franchise. Perhaps I was just born that way. Yankee fans seem to think that their team has some kind of god-given right to be the champion. They seem to think that the sun shines out of their asses. (Well, some of them, anyway.) Of course, most of the people seen wearing Yankees hats aren’t even true fans and have probably never even set foot in the Bronx! They're just a bunch of frontrunners.

Still, another reason to hate the Yankees is that they are the Michael Bloomberg of the baseball world. Their mode of operation is to spend millions and millions and millions of dollars to bludgeon the competition into defeat. Their highest paid player – and the highest paid in baseball, I believe – is Alex Rodriguez. A friend of mine who’s a Yankee fan keeps telling me how happy he is that A-Rod is finally delivering in the post-season (something he has not done in the past), but I just respond that Rodriguez is doing what he’s getting paid to do!

So, let’s see what happens.

Finally, now that my visitors have all left, why does my apartment seem so much more spacious???

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