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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Robert Heinecken, 1931–2006

Jerry N. Uelsmann, Bob, 1973

Robert Heinecken died last Friday after suffering for 12 years from Alzheimer's disease. He was 74.

"In the 1960s, Heinecken began to develop an approach to photographs that was distinctive in the history of the medium. He sometimes described himself as a para-photographer, because his work stood 'beside' or 'beyond' traditional ideas associated with photography. Essentially, the artist decided that in the wake of the media explosion that had come to characterize contemporary life, enough photographs already existed. Rather than make more, he would manipulate existing ones. His art became an attempt to clarify, reveal and sometimes confound the subliminal social, political and artistic codes they contain. Heinecken was among the first to consider himself an artist who used photographs, not a photographer who made them. Today that approach is common. But in the late 1960s, when Heinecken published an influential portfolio of 25 prints titled 'Are You Rea,' the radical nature of the experiment was largely unprecedented." (Christopher Knight, The Los Angeles Times)


Illustrations: Above left: Robert Heinecken, Shiva Manifesting as a Single Mother, 1989; above right: Robert Heinecken, Connie Chung, 1989

Amend That

"OFFICIAL CORRECTION: Please see change in headline to read 'Canon considers halt to film camera development.' Also in first paragraph please read ...that it would consider halting development... instead of ...that it would halt... and in second paragraph please read would consider whether it needs to continue developing... instead of made the decision to freeze... and in fourth paragraph please read ...Canon's statement... instead of ...Canon's decision...."

READ The Corrected Version of Canon's plans for its film future


Some Ideas Work Better Than Others...!

Photo by Tanik


Tuesday, May 30, 2006

T.O.P. Ten: Number 2

W. Eugene Smith, Tomoko Uemura in her Bath, Minamata, 1972

The Concerned Photographer

If Dorothea Lange's "Migrant Mother" is photography's madonna, then the last of the many great photographs of Gene Smith, Tomoko Uemura in her Bath, is our pietà.

That's a properly exalted way of looking at these pictures, but it's a little too pat, too, because there are important differences. A madonna is an archetype, an idealization of mother and infant. The picture of the young mother in the pea pickers' camp and her three children is no idealization. It's a portrait of the hard mantle of responsibility that every parent bears and that every other parent understands, a plain picture of the "grinding" quality of poverty, of worry, and of care—but, crucially, strength and forebearance, too. Despite all its formal perfection and its lovely tones (still stunning after all these years), it would be nothing without that. It is the woman acting as a support and a source of strength for her children—surrounded on three sides by them, literally as well as figuratively their center—that makes the picture universal.

Smith's picture of Tomoko is even more complicated and layered. A pietà (the word is Italian for "pity") is traditionally the obverse of the Madonna, a depiction of Mary mourning her dead son, and that's universal enough and plenty poignant enough: psychologists say that the death of a child is #1 on the list of stressors a human being can experience, and you don't have to be a master of empathy to be able to feel the truth of that. But Smith's Minamata project was an early environmental exposé. Tomoko Uemura was born with massive birth defects caused by environmental poisoning from a chemical plant. She's not dead; and her mother is not grieving. In fact, what's remarkable about the picture—again, in addition to its really breathtaking formal and tonal perfection—is the obvious humanity of Tomoko and, especially, the infinite caring, gentleness, and sympathy in her mother's gaze. Like a great masterpiece of music, you could look at that mother's expression for the rest of your life and never exhaust its human richness and its connection to the elemental selflessness and depth of parental love. But the reason why connecting these pictures to their universal archetypes doesn't quite tell the whole story is that the six people in these two pictures remain real people in real circumstances. That they can access such classic human themes so obviously and directly is impressive, but it's their relationship to real events and immediate circumstances that makes them great photographs.

For at least twenty years, there existed a sort of code among photographers of the highest ambition that went by the label of "concerned photography." I believe it was coined by, and maybe even defined by, Cornell Capa, but I admit I haven't done the research. I don't know, either, whether Gene Smith just embodied it or to what degree he might have inspired it. But it's okay that all the ligatures are a bit of a mush to me; Smith was not a man with good boundaries. He was a profoundly conflicted man, probably a masochist, certainly a tortured soul, and there were no borders to either his passion or his commitment. He ended up being part of the Minamata story himself, not just a reporter of it—his beating at the hands of Chisso's thugs (crippling him for good, although he had certainly not been kind to, or easy on, his body and his nervous system up until that point) helped form public opinion and extended the reach of the story in the broader world.

If you can get a hold of his biography, W. Eugene Smith, Shadow and Substance by Jim Hughes, it is potentially one of those life-changing books for us photographers. But be sure you attend to Smith's pictures, sooner or later. No photographer I know anything about was ever more rawly emotional. His life was chaos, and as a man he was a wreck, a mess. But his art soars.


Previous Posts in The Online Photographer's Top Ten Greatest Photographs Ever Made:

10. The Equivalent
9. The Image of Woman
8. Self and Other
7. Witness
6. Significance
5. The Land
4. Access
3. The Portrait

Featured Comment by Dave Jenkins: "Just for the record, the 'concerned photographer' term comes from two books titled The Concerned Photographer and The Concerned Photographer II. Edited by Cornell Capa, they were published by Grossman in 1968 and 1972, respectively. The first volume contained photographs by Robert Capa, David Seymour, Andre Kertesz, Leonard Freed, Dan Weiner and Werner Bischof; volume II featured Marc Riboud, Roman Vishniac, Bruce Davidson, Gordon Parks, Ernst Haas, Hiroshi Hamaya, Donald McCullin, and W. Eugene Smith."

An Organizin' Fool

Ken Tanaka's post on whether to print or not has inspired some excellent comments. Personally, I love the craft of printmaking, although my skills as a digital printer are not up to the level of my darkroom skills (and neither are my darkroom skills, any more. That is, I'm a bit rusty. Furthermore, I miss the darkroom. Since I parted from my last one, I feel as if a crotchety (and yes, smelly!) but beloved old dog has died.)

But I have to say I was chastened by Janne's question, "I really want to know—what do people who print do with the prints? Stuff them in a box, hang them on their living room wall?"

Just a few days before this discussion began—honestly—I ordered a dozen archival metal-edge print boxes from Dick Blick—half a dozen 11x14 and have a dozen 9x12. The fact is, I have prints in stacks on the floor, prints piled in closets, prints in drawers, dozens and dozens of shabby old photo-paper boxes filled with prints...pretty much in every nook and cranny in the house. It was time to try to bring a little order to the chaos—although, just as with books and bookcases, it is a truism that the number of prints you have to box will always outrun the boxes you have to put them in. Why have all these prints? Why, because I really like to look at them. That's the simple and true answer. Sometimes I even let other people see a few. But not terribly often—why would they care?

I'm continuing to strive towards the day when I will be able to make really good, permanent inkjet prints that I feel the same way toward as I feel toward archivally-processed fiber-base black & white prints. And I am going to try to be more selective about what I keep, and more organized about where I keep them. Really, I am.


To Print or Not to Print?

by Ken Tanaka

An anonymous commenter on an earlier post remarked that he never prints his digital images, preferring instead to use the Web as the exclusive destination for his work. He wondered how many others do the same. I wonder, too.

Personally, I consider a print the final destination for a good image. It's the only form that presents a long-lasting and accurate representation of the photographer's intentions. But how many peoples' vacation photos, for instance, still end up as prints? The rapid and pervasive acceptance of camera phones, online sharing, and "publishing" to a CD or DVD has undoubtedly increased the percentage of digital images that are never printed.

I don't know hard statistics of the number of digital photos that ultimately meet paper versus those that never incarnate to the physical world. But I do recall reading an extensive paper prepared by Kodak several years ago that highlighted the lack of basic, accessible snapshot printing facilities for digital photographers. The premise of the paper was that lack of simple printing services for digital photographs (akin to what people used to pick up at the drugstore) represented a significant barrier to broader consumer acceptance of digital cameras.

The paper represented part of the business plan foundations for Kodak's initiative to extend its "Easy Share" digital photo system to push-button print kiosks and other similar simple consumer printing facilities in retail locations. It's been very successful, particularly with women, who generally aren't interested in geeking-out just to print pictures of the friends, travels, and family.

Right/wrong, good/bad, virtuous/scandalous, artfulness/laziness...these are not judgments that I would make concerning the manner in which someone chooses to apply their images. Photography is a personal activity of relaxation for most people. If printing does not enhance that experience for someone, why should they pursue it? The fact is that today the Internet provides a medium for photographers to present facsimiles of their images (albeit in low resolution, small sizes, and limited and/or unpredictable color gamuts) around the world instantly. If that proposition is most appealing to some people, more power to them!

Posted by KEN TANAKA

Monday, May 29, 2006

Learning from 'Bubble'

Movie still from "Bubble"

What can photographers learn from watching films? I recently watched Steven Soderbergh's movie "Bubble" and was so taken with the composition and lighting in many of the scenes that I performed some photographic analysis of my favorite shots by shooting screen captures of the images. You can see the results in a photoset on flickr.

Posted by: JOE REIFER

Featured Comment by Don: "Check out the recent (last couple years) movie 'Girl with a Pearl Earring' for the same reasons. Lighting, composition, color harmony, etc. are incredible."

'Those Who Served, Forever Serve'

The U.S.S. Oriskany in service

The remarkable pictures below show the scuttling of "The Mighty O," formerly commissioned as the U.S.S. Oriskany, an 888-foot-long aircraft carrier that had a 25-year history of service to the Navy. Twelve days ago, on May 17th, she was sunk some 24 miles off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, to become the world's largest artificial reef.

Some 45,000 sailors are believed to have served on the Mighty O in her long career. One of them was Senator John McCain, who was captured by the North Vietnamese and held as a prisoner of war for six years after taking off from her decks.

The reef that the Mighty O has become will serve sightseers, divers, and sports fishermen, and is expected to generate millions of dollars for Pensacola's economy.

Decommissioned, retired, even forced to suffer that most ignominious of fates for warships, sunken—but still useful, still honored—and not forgotten. What better symbol of faithful service?


Sunday, May 28, 2006

Please Don't Buy A Mac

"At this time, EarthLink doesn't offer a version of Spyware Blocker for Macintosh computers because spyware rarely infiltrates Mac operating systems.

"Like computer viruses, spyware is designed to reach as many people as possible. Since Macs aren't as prevalent as Windows, spyware creators and marketing companies are far more likely to target PC users.

"However, the popularity of Macs is increasing—due in part to iTunes, iPods, and the opening of new Apple stores. We continue to watch industry trends and conduct research about malicious adware, system monitors, keyloggers, and Trojan horses. If we ever see a need for spyware protection for Macs, we'll develop a stable, complete Spyware Blocker tool to help Mac members disable these programs."

(verbatim from the Earthlink site)

Posted by: MIKE ("Mac, Who Me?") JOHNSTON

Quote o' the Day

"Actually making prints, as opposed to endlessly stewing about making prints, is good for the soul...."
------------------------------------------------------------Oren Grad

Covered-up Structures... Japanese photographer Eiji Ina. He also photographs industrial waste, among other things.

Posted by OREN GRAD

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Gentle Transition

by Paul Butzi
Most of the time the transition from "traditional" to "digital" photography is presented as a fundamental shift, unprecedented in photographic history. I disagree—I think that the challenges and opportunities presented by digital photographic equipment are merely evolutionary.

Consider the path of one particular photographer, Linda Butler, whose work extends over decades and spans a broad range of work. Butler’s path is interesting because at each point in her work, she’s been doing what I call "following the curve" as the technology available to her improved, using the new tools to extend her reach, and to make the photographs with less botheration and hardship.

I first saw Butler’s work when I saw her excellent book Inner Light: the Shaker Legacy. Butler used a large format, 8x10 camera and Ilford HP-5 film to produce luminous, detail rich photographs of the record of Shaker life that remains in the artifacts and buildings at various Shaker communities.

In her next book, Rural Japan: the Radiance of the Ordinary, Butler took advantage of the improvements in film (in particular, the t-grain films from Kodak) and the photographs were done with 4x5 and medium format cameras. Butler used the new tools to great advantage, and Rural Japan is also filled with photographs that show Butler’s skill at getting luminous, detail rich quality into her prints. Beyond that, though, there are images in Rural Japan that probably wouldn’t have been made had she been using an 8x10. Heck, just transporting the 4x5 and the film holders apparently represented a challenge.

Moving on to her next book, Italy in the Shadow of Time, we have another book filled with radiant, detail rich photographs done in Butler’s familiar but evolving style. In an interview, Butler remarked that the improvements in film had allowed her to get the results she wanted with the smaller camera. But still, she used a 4x5 view camera and tripod, which allowed her to make the long exposures she needed.

In her most recent book, Yangtze Remembered, Butler photographed the Yangtze river valley before the completion of the Three Gorges dam. In this case, Butler used a 4x5, a Mamiya 7, and a Sony 3.3 megapixel digicam. When printing, she found that the difficult lighting conditions had resulted in negatives from which she couldn’t get acceptable prints. Her solution was to scan the negatives, adjust them in Photoshop, and then write new 4x5 negatives that she could print conventionally. The images from the digital camera were also written to 4x5 negatives and printed conventionally. In some cases, she stitched several images together digitally. In the book, she comments that “Without the digital camera, I could not have gotten such photographs as that of the tracker, the coal porters…”

So Linda Butler has gone from an 8x10 Deardorff and HP-5 film all the way to digital capture and hybrid digital printing. For each project, she picked the tools at hand that suited to capturing the subject according to her vision. As technology evolved, she’s had new tools to choose from and she’s chosen the new tools when appropriate.

The technology we have available (the easy part) evolves and changes and so the tools we use are naturally going to change, too. But the hard part, which Ralph Steiner said was knowing which way to point the camera and when to let the shutter go—that part stays the same.

Posted by PAUL BUTZI

Celebrity Notes

'...Fucking photographers, you should be shot, you should be all shot. Thank you.'

Elton John, at the Cannes Film Festival last Monday

The crocodilian Reginald Dwight before he met Bernie Toupée

If it's any consolation, Elton, there are a great many photographers who don't actually care about you.

I'd take your picture if you rang the doorbell, but you'd have to pay.

An artist demands his dignity.


Random Excellence

A platinum portrait by the portraitist John Sarsgard, more of whose whose work can be seen here.


How to Succeed at Stock Photography

That the economic model of the stock photography business is changing is an undeniable fact. More agencies, more submissions, lower prices, lower standards, consolidation of major agencies, etc.

But the photographers who have been, and will continue to be, most successful in stock photography are those who treat it like a business in itself. These are photographers who are not simply master camera technicians. They pay close attention to print marketing trends, visual message styles, current color/lighting designs, and subject selections. They often shoot with very specific industry segments in mind. They then deliver images that represent something fresh, something that just seems to fit into what art directors are thinking now, not last quarter. They don't simply toss out discards from commercial work. They shoot for stock sales.

Personally I think that we should celebrate the existence of "microstock" agencies where marginal photographers (often just weekend shutterbugs) can offer images for equally marginal applications for marginal pricing. Everybody wins.

Those photographers who take stock imaging seriously will, as always, remain at the top of the game in terms of popularity and income.

Posted by: KEN TANAKA

Featured Comment by Speedtrials1975: "This is really funny and about stock photo models:"

These are both TOTALLY hilarious! I love it. Thanks. —Mike

Forgent's JPEG Patent Rejected

Right to Create reports: "The USPTO [United States Patent and Trademark Office] has rejected the broadest claims of the JPEG image format patent held by Forgent Networks. It’s nice to see the Patent Office doing the right thing, but it’s too bad that more than $100 million dollars that Forgent has extorted from industry will never be returned to its rightful owners. Forgent gets to keep that money, regardless of how the PTO rules. For nearly 19 years, this patent has stood without challenge. Now, just over a year before it was to expire, the PTO declares that it is bogus...."


The Public Patent Foundation, which brought the challenge, comments: "'The Patent Office has agreed with our conclusion that it would have never granted Forgent Networks’ '672 patent had it been aware of the prior art that we uncovered and submitted to them,' said Dan Ravicher, PUBPAT’s Executive Director. 'Making matters worse here is that this new prior art was known by those who filed the application that led to the '672 patent, but none of them told the Patent Office about it, despite their duty to do so.'"


Friday, May 26, 2006

T.O.P. Endorses: TAMRON 17-35mm ƒ/2.8–4

This is three, three, three posts in one, which is just the thing for the beginning of a holiday weekend (it's Memorial Day weekend in the United States. We display the flag, hold parades featuring aged veterans and the occasional tank, and remember all those who served, some of whom also died).

First, an official, certified, sealed T.O.P. endorsement, unbidden and unbeholden as usual, for one sah-weet digital SLR lens.

Second, an announcement: has just posted a review of this lens.

Third, this seems as good a time as any to talk about's outstanding "Blur Index" dynamic interactive graphic feature. This is really one swell application of web technology.

This is not immediately apparent to many people when they first visit the SLRGear site, but you have to click on the static Blur Index illustration in order to get to the feature!

Once you do, a pop-up will open, and you'll find a great deal of very useful information packed into a very easy-to-understand visual. The Index gives the sharpness of the lens across the entire optical field at every focal length and aperture, which you control using sliders.

If you'll refer to the illustration above, I'll tell you briefly what you're looking for. First of all, the rectangle within the 3-D "box" is the image. The lower in the box it is—the closer to violet in color—the higher the sharpness. The corners of the rectangle are, obviously enough, the corners of the image. So the flatter the colored rectangle, the more uniform the lens's performance is across its field; and the lower it sits in the box, the sharper it is.

Like Phil Davis's masterful Plotter/Matcher program does for black-and-white film, developer, and paper combinations, the SLRGear Blur Index can show you almost at a glance what used to take weeks of use and patient observation to determine. Namely, it tells you where a lens is strong and where it is weak, and in what way. For instance, the above illustration is the Tamron 17-35mm wide open at 17mm (the worst case for this lens, as it is for most WA zooms). You see that the corners are very soft (they're much higher than the center); but you also see that the center is still extremely sharp. As most photographers have discovered, in siituations where you're using a lens wide open, very often you're concentrating on some central object and the corners don't matter much at all (consider my [in]famous apple again, for instance). In such cases, the graph tells you the Tamron can be used safely wide open.

Move the focal-length and aperture sliders in the Blur Index pop-up back and forth to see that the lens gets very well behaved very quickly, and stays that way.

Using the Blur Index, you can even see diffraction degradation setting in—that's when the entire colored rectangle, representing the image at the sensor plane, moves upwards as you close the aperture more and more. The graph reveals that there's not much diffraction penalty with this Tamron, but with other lenses it can very usefully show you what small apertures to avoid.

It's a quick and effective way to compare two lenses, too. For instance, a close comparison of the Tamron 17-35mm and the Canon 17-40mm shows that the Canon is slightly more consistent across the frame, but that the Tamron, at wider focal lengths and wider apertures, is a touch sharper in the center (remember that the Tamron is faster, too; the Canon at first looks much better wide open, but to be fair you have to "virtually" stop down the Tamron to ƒ/4. When you do that, the less expensive Tamron compares very well).

All in all, the Blur Index on is one of the most innovative graphic representations of lens test information I've seen in ages. It will of course become more useful as more lenses are added to the database. But it's a fun and valuable feature that should be a regular surfing stop for anyone who likes to learn about how lenses perform.


Depth of Field and Depth of Focus

Contrary to common belief, these are not interchangeable terms. Both refer to a range of distance in front of or in back of an ideal plane, within which objects will still appear sharp. Depth of field, however, is that range in front of the lens, out in the world, corresponding to the subject plane, i.e., what you have the camera pointed at; depth of focus is that range in back of the lens, inside the camera, corresponding to the film or sensor plane.

Depth of field is usually measured in inches, feet, or yards, (or centimeters and meters, for those of you in Yurp and the rest of the world), and is of conceptual usefulness to photographers in visualizing a picture. Depth of focus is a technical calibration measured in microns that for the most part photographers can't do a whole lot about.

The exception to the latter is that view camera photographers often do have to fret about depth of focus. The ground side of ground glass backs, where the aerial image shows up, needs to be pretty precisely where the film will be once you insert a holder. Also, the film needs to stay in one plane as much as possible. Chip Forelli, who incidentally has a lovely portfolio in the current Lenswork magazine, uses tiny pieces of double-sided tape to stick his sheet film to the back of the holder when he knows he's going to be making long time exposures. Howard Bond figured out a simple way to measure his film holders for consistency—after which he threw out half his film holders and stopped getting the occasional mystifyingly soft negative that theretofore had dogged him.

Another way of putting this is that depth of field is the distance an object you've focused on can be moved closer or further away from the camera while still appearing sharp. Depth of focus is the distance the film or sensor can move toward or away from the lens and still have the image appear sharp.


Thursday, May 25, 2006

Mike Needs Help

Following on the post "digital definitions" below, I'd like to ask for help coming up with a list of photo-related words that I could define in similar fashion for a longer article. Would you help me come up with a list of words I could define?

Any photo-related word, term, concept, company, etc., serious or silly, deep or shallow, technical or colloquial, general or specialized, would help. Leave your words or a list as a comment—I receive the comments privately but I won't publish them.



P.S. Definitions or ideas that need terms but don't have them are welcome too.

Wanna Get Rich in Stock Photography?

Think again, says Ken Rockwell.

Posted by: OREN GRAD


Digital angst, n., fear of digital photography, usually caused by unfamiliarity with it, but sometimes caused or compounded by lack of aptitude for computers and/or concern about high costs and rapid depreciation. Often exagerrated or unwarranted but nevertheless acutely felt.

Digital malaise
, n., ambivalence towards digital photography even among those who have already switched to it, especially but not exclusively as experienced by former traditional black-and-white, large format, or alternative-process photographers interested in and familiar with darkroom craftsmanship and traditional methods. An important aspect of digital malaise seldom mentioned is that the very existence of digital also creates, in a sort of "back-formation," a concommitant ambivalence toward film photography that wasn't there before. It is not so much the one or the other but the interaction of these ambivalences that causes the nagging sense of doubt, loss, and uncertainly that doesn't seem to want to go away.

Film virgin, n., a digital photographer ignorant of, or inexperienced with, any kind of film photography.

Digital photo geek, n., someone who is mainly interested in computers and computer software and has only become interested in photography since, and because, it has become a sub-field of computing.

Apugger, n., traditional film still photographer who has not and may not want to make the transition to digital. (After APUG, the Analog Photography Users Group.)

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON (thanks to Andy F. for the term "film virgin")

Currently at Oklahoma City Museum

Jeff Ladd, New York City, 2002

What: "Crosswalks: Street Photography." Presents 47 works by 14 photographers from the United States, Great Britain, and Australia. The exhibition portrays the unique, split-second revelations found through the art of street photography. Captured on the streets of New York, London, Amsterdam, Las Vegas, Athens, Melbourne, Barcelona, Milan, Venice, Palm Springs, and Dallas, each momentary image challenges the viewer’s perceptions of composition, content, and the nature of photography.

When: May 24 through September 17, 2006

Third Floor
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK 73102
(405) 236-3100

Richard Sandler, Van Cleef, 1986

Curated by New York City photographer Mason Resnick in collaboration with the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. Photographers include John Beeching, Richard Bram, Melanie Einzig, David Gibson, Nils Jorgensen, Jeffrey Ladd, Jesse Marlow, Mike Peters, Mason Resnick, Richard Sandler, Gary Mark Smith, Paul Treacy, Nick Turpin, and Amani Willett.

From the Promo: "The street photographer is always curious, looking to capture ethereal, momentary interactions. At its best, street photography (a catch-all phrase describing photos made surreptitiously in public places) provides a tension between form and content that resolves itself in humor, irony, and even insights into the human condition. The subjects are real, unaware of the photographer, and therefore captured in an un-self-conscious state. Traditional rules of composition are often set aside, as the street photographer invents a uniquely photographic language out of chaos."

John Beeching, Untitled, 1973

How much: Museum admission is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors and students. Admission free for children five and under and for Museum members. Groups of 15 or more, $4 per person.


Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON, thanks to JIM MEEKS

Useless Squared?!

Fisheye lovers, though few, tend to be fanatical, and that goes ditto for fans of the distinctive toycam known as the Lomo. Put the two together and you've either got useless squared or twice the fun, depending on your perspective. Check out the brand-spanking-new Lomo Fisheye 2 on Joshua Waller's Digicam Review site.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON, with thanks to JW

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

In Heavy Rotation

Recent enthusiasms, not exclusively photographic...

"Ohrwurm" (German for "ear worm," figuratively a tune that gets stuck in your head): The Raconteurs' "Steady As She Goes" (either version, album or acoustic).

Recent favorite albums: Avishai Cohen, Continuo, and Bass Communion and Muslimgauze, One through Seven [available on iTunes]. I had written off Avishai Cohen as an "empty virtuoso" of the "Listen to how many notes I can play how perfectly how fast!" variety, but his latest has real soul. It's perfect for a contemplative late night when you're feeling a bit wistful and fatalistic about the world. BC&M is thinking man's (or woman's) electronica, electronica you can really listen to. It stands up to multiple hearings. Or, at least, has for me.*

Most coveted camera lately: Rolleicord Va or b (don't ask me why—I know I'd probably never use it).

Best article read this week: "What the Dog Saw: Cesar Millan and the enigma of presence," Malcolm Gladwell's profile of Cesar Millan, the "Dog Whisperer," in The New Yorker (an interview with Gladwell about the article is here, but don't miss the article), May 22, 2006, p. 48.

Favorite recent photograph of my own (above).

Best pairs of books to read together:
What's the Matter With Kansas? by Thomas Frank, a non-fiction portrait and political analysis of Kansas today, with The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton by Jane Smiley, a fictional portrait of Kansas Territory before the Civil War;


The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan, a tour-de-force about the food we eat and where it comes from, with Alive by Piers Paul Read, a true account of plane crash victims in the Andes surviving by cannibalism. (Talk about yer explosive synergy!)

Michael Pollan's book is the best I've read about food and the best book I've read recently on any subject (at least if you don't share my caustic perspective on national affairs). It should go on your short list if you like nonfiction. Did you know, for example, that virtually every ingredient in certain "orange drinks" are made from corn, including the citric acid? The account of the boar hunt is worth the price of the book.

Favorite recent book of photographs: Street Photographs by Juan Buhler. One of those perfect little gems of photographic bookmaking like George Krause One, Francis Benjamin Johnston's The Hampton Album, or Luc Delahaye's Winterreise. If anybody out there is actually reading this and actually listens to me, get this.


Photo of Rolleicord Vb from John's Rollei Only Page

*A tip o' the hat to KK, who I'm sure introduced me to BC&M.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

City Photographers

Berenice Abbott (1898-1991), Greyhound Bus Terminal, Federal Arts Project, "Changing New York," July 14, 1936

It's always seemed odd to me that cities don't have photographers. The White House has an official photographer; so do football teams and opera companies; why doesn't Chicago? Is Phoenix too bland, Atlanta eternal and unchanging, Portland, Maine uninterested in what Portland, Oregon looks like? Cities have official coffee-suppliers, inkwell-fillers, pothole-fixers, numberless keepers of records and documents less worthy than what the place look like when. Any elightened city should have at least one full-time photographer out in it day after day recording the comings and goings, the tearing down and the building up, the passage of life and the comings and goings of the people, the look of the place in the rain and the winter and at night and in times of celebration and crisis and boredom. Any parent does as much for the changing aspect of a single child, as it grows and changes forever. Any city is forever disappearing. Why not notice?



The new Pentax K100D, with the diminutive 21mm prime lens mounted

Around about the time of the terrible tsunami in the Indian Ocean, I wrote an article for The Luminous Landscape called "The K-1000 of Digital SLRs," referencing Pentax's near-deathless distilled-to-its-essence intro SLR that so many people learned to shoot with in numberless photography classes over the years. The occasion for that article was Pentax's *ist DS, which I'd just bought at the time. If you haven't read that article, the first few paragraphs especially—about the kind of camera company Pentax has traditionally been—may be worth checking out.

But the phrase might be even better applied to Pentax's newest, a sub-20-oz. DSLR available with (the K100D) and without (the K110D) built-into-the-body Shake Reduction. Not to sound like the proverbial broken record, but in-the-body vibration control has become a must-have feature for me personally, as it suits my chosen style of working so well.

Two other facts bear pointing out with regard to Pentax's latest: first, that the other Pentax DSLRs have the best viewfinders of all the introductory DSLRs; and second, that despite Nikon getting most of the credit for this, Pentax actually has the best back-compatibility of any of the cameramakers, period, when it comes to lenses. You'll be able to put 6x7 lenses and 1950s screwmount lenses on the K-100D; you can use K lenses, M lenses, A lenses; the modern autofocus Limiteds fit, as well as all the FA lenses; and Pentax has so far released more APS-C primes than any other manufacturer, not to mention the inevitable selection of zooms. I had a 1970s vintage 28mm ƒ/3.5 K lens on the *istDS, and it was easy, and a pleasure, to use.

Here's the press release for the new camera, which I'm sure interested parties will be able to read all about in the days and weeks to come on all the gearhead sites.


Monday, May 22, 2006

Lady Day

I've just added a couple more prints to my eBay page, including the one I promised to put up of Billie Holiday at the "Strange Fruit" recording sessions. (The other is a picture of the great Brazilian race car driver Emerson Fittipaldi signing autographs at the Michigan 400—tip o' the hat to K.P.). The Billie Holiday picture is a gem, a gorgeous print from the large format negative, very crisp with deep blacks (very high Dmax).


'Beauty in Photography'

by Paul Butzi
I was browsing through my collection of photography related quotations the other day, choosing one to put on the front page of my web site, when I noticed an interesting thing: quite a few of those quotations come from one source—a slim little book titled Beauty in Photography: Essays in Defense of Traditional Values, by Robert Adams.

For a long time, Robert Adams’ photographs left me cold. Judging by the comments I’ve seen in online forums when his work is discussed, that’s not an unusual response. There are a lot of folks who look at his photographs and think “What in the world is this guy trying to show us?” Adams’ photographs were a puzzle to me—the irritating sort, where you suspect that there’s something there but perhaps the artist has gone somewhere you can’t follow.

Then I wandered into a little bookstore and found Beauty in Photography there on the shelf, and I bought it. When I read it, I thought back over his photographs in my memory, and they started to make sense. A few years later, I snapped up a copy of Why People Photograph, which is a sort of companion volume [actually more of a sequel—BiP was published in 1981 and WPP in 1994 —MJ]. Like Beauty in Photography, it’s a collection of essays. And again, a few of Adams’ photographs became more understandable to me. It’s not that the two books directly talk about his photographs. It’s that his overall philosophy is there, laid out in his straightforward, direct prose.

If, like so many folks do, you look at Adams’ photographs and wonder what it’s about, you might find Beauty in Photography and Why People Photograph interesting reading.

Posted by PAUL BUTZI

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Brindle Pup

Checking out a bark

I spent more time with a camera in my hands than with my hands on a keyboard this weekend. The big event at our house was the arrival of Zander's new puppy Lulu, a mixed breed foundling with a super-sweet disposition. She's gentle, affectionate, and amazingly calm—at least if there are no kids playing nearby. We spent the day in Chicago yesterday with my friend Gabi, who reluctantly had to place Lulu for adoption. Gabi's three cats were threatening to go out on strike if the annoying non-feline creature who had invaded their space didn't get gone and pronto. (Cats!)

Now Zander has announced that if I turn out to be allergic to Lulu, I'll have to be placed out for adoption myself, although he has promised to place me with some kind owner who will allow him to visit. You've never seen a 13-year-old more besotted with a dog. Awake, asleep, playing, watching and kid have barely spent five minutes apart since the minute they met.

It's a look: aside from her lovely brindle coloring and a white blaze on one side of her muzzle, Lulu's distinguishing feature is that she has one ear that stands up and one that flops over. Snazzy!

One Ear to the Wind!