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October 2009
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2009, Oct 28
Vivian Maier

It almost seems like Vivian Maier’s photographs are coming to light by pure chance—“I acquired Vivian’s negatives while at a furniture and antique auction,” wrote the man who bought them. She’s been unknown until now, but a default template Blogger blog is certainly changing that.

She was born in France but lived most of her life in Chicago, where she took photos. This is the really the most exciting thing I’ve seen online in a while. There are more details to come about Maier’s life, but it’s compelling to watch this unfold. It’s interesting to compare this to what you see linked up on BOOOOOOOOM

via LPV twitter


							

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2009, Oct 27
Nietzsche, from “Human, all too human”

155

Belief in inspiration. Artists have an interest in others’ believing in sudden ideas, so-called inspirations; as if the idea of a work of art, of poetry, the fundamental thought of a philosophy shines down like a merciful light from heaven. In truth, the good artist’s or thinker’s imagination is continually producing things good, mediocre, and bad, but his power of judgment, highly sharpened and practiced, rejects, selects, joins together; thus we now see from Beethoven’s notebooks that he gradually assembled the most glorious melodies and, to a degree, selected them out of disparate beginnings. The artist who separates less rigorously, liking to rely on his imitative memory, can in some circumstances become a great improviser; but artistic improvisation stands low in relation to artistic thoughts earnestly and laboriously chosen. All great men were great workers, untiring not only in invention but also in rejecting, sifting, reforming, arranging.

read on


							

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2009, Oct 25
Three words of advice about process

I recently heard these things from three different people. This first one is a paraphrase:

“I would like to do everything with 100% integrity. But sometimes I would see prints that my friends made, and when I asked them how they got it done they would say, ‘well, I sent it to such and such a lab…’ So maybe the prints weren’t perfect, but they still looked good, and they had them on paper!”

“I think you need to pay to develop as much of that film as you can afford. Do it tomorrow. Right now it’s like a clog in a drain. Creative work should be flowing through you steadily always. It seems to me that the most successful designers and artists are always producing. When you hold work in process like this, it creates attachments. How much do you hope the photos in that fridge will be great? Attachment is really dangerous; it makes it hard for you to judge the real successes and failures of your work.”

“No one is obliging you to take photographs!”


							

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2009, Oct 23
About the Moriyama backlash

I think it has become cool in a “controversial” sort of way to proclaim a strong distaste for Moriyama—like, he doesn’t represent Japanese photography, man! My feeling about Moriyama and Araki—who elicits the same reaction—is that at this point, they’re not worth making a fuss over. They are an unmovable part of the landscape, and regardless of whether they produce good work or bad work from here on out, their positions are secure.

I’m going to suggest that everyone adopt this “wild” opinion as quickly as possible! Let’s all talk about how much we hate Moriyama—not so much his photographs of course as what he stands for!—so that we can get through this, have a backlash against the backlash and not have to talk about it anymore.

This conversation frustrates me because it has little to do with photography. The view that Moriyama does not “represent” Japanese photography, or that he has stolen attention from other Japanese photographers, has more to do with the impressions that these photographs have made on foreigners. As it happens, I think a lot of Moriyama’s recent stuff isn’t very strong, and that he’s leaving himself open to fair criticism by overextending his brand, but a quick look at almost any of the recent Record magazines shows he hasn’t lost it—as if he still had to prove or justify himself anyway! A friend pointed out that his fame has only come recently; during the 70s he was literally selling whole boxes of prints to get by.

All that said, I agree with the feeling behind this complaint. It can’t be a good thing that Araki and Moriyama are so often equated with “Japanese photography.” But if we really wanted to see some new faces get recognition abroad, why not talk about… some new Japanese photographers?

Yo, did you know that Yamashita Tsuneo put a whole bunch of his “Another Time on the Ryuku Islands” photos online? He most definitely did, go check them out!


							

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Daido Moriyama, Tsuneo Yamashita

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2009, Oct 21
Thomas Orand’s new blog

Thomas Orand lives only a minute away from me, in our quiet neighborhood in the Suginami ward of Tokyo. I see him every so often outside of the local grocery store, or run into him when we’re both biking around. We stop and talk for a while about photography—Thomas also uses a Hasselblad, and has set up a darkroom in his apartment, which is amazing given how small it is.

Recently he set up a new blog for color photos, using the default Blogger template. I think this feature is worth noting because the default Blogger template—and I feel this infinitely more than with any other service—lends a real air of simplicity to a site. It fits the photos which he’s posting there.


							

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Thomas Orand

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2009, Oct 20
ikebukuro mju matsuri

I bought an Olympus mju at the Salvation Army bazaar near my house for 300 yen, or about $3. (You can also buy old records there for 200 yen, sometimes there’s good stuff like YMO, Donna Summer or Kelis.) I took it out for a day in Ikebukuro to see what was up. I guess the focus is sometimes way off, and I hadn’t turned the quartz date off, but I think it’s still not a bad deal. Anyway I’ve already replaced it with something better.


							

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2009, Oct 18
Photos in Electric Ant #2

I worked on a project with the talented Monika Uchiyama for issue number 2 of Electric Ant, where we each shot around Tokyo with half frame cameras. I printed everything in the darkroom, so I’m excited to see it on the page. The zine is full of interesting stuff, including a ridiculously great cover by Hellen Jo and an article on the tranny scene here in Shinjuku written by my friend Nate.

You can check out way more information about Electric Ant here—there’s even a live book preview. Big thanks to Ryan for making this happen.


							

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2009, Oct 13
Arata Masuda’s “Rooftop Paradise” at Konica Minolta

this looks 5x better in print…

Short version of this post: check out the show by Arata Masuda over at Konica Minolta Plaza in Shinjuku. [map] It’s called “Rooftop Paradise,” and it’s up until October 23. I highly recommend it.

I went to meet a friend in Shinjuku today, but I got there a bit early so I decided to see what was up at Konica Minolta Plaza, one of the many “maker” galleries in Tokyo, along with other spaces run by Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Ricoh, Fuji and Epson. (!) I didn’t know what was there, but Konica Minolta is always hit and miss, which is actually a step up from most of the other maker galleries which are usually full of junk.

As it happens, Monday the gallery is actually closed, but I “misunderstood” a sign outside the elevator and walked in, where the Arata exhibit was already set up. I made one pass of the exhibit, which I hastened when I heard some whispering outside to the effect of “some crazy foreigner just walked in” “foreigner?” “yes a foreigner.”

I’ll definitely going back for a slower look, because the photos are great. Arata went to the rooftops of department stores and found some incredible images there. The show is big, so not everything hits the mark, but in many cases he finds a balanced composition between people, buildings, trees and whatever else happens to be on top of department stores. This composition reminds me of Gocho Shigeo, who might be one of my favorites:

This image of Gocho’s is one of the only ones I could find online but no matter. If you’re in Shinjuku over the next couple of weeks, stop by and check the Arata show out.


							

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2009, Oct 08
Moriyama Daido at Kodoji

From now until October 15, you can see some Moriyama Daido prints while you engage in that all too common of Tokyo activities, drinking yourself into oblivion. They’re up at Kodoji, a bar located in the Golden Gai district of Shinjuku—an area as infamous for the microscopic size of its bars as for its colorful history.

this photo once appeared in a JAL in flight magazine. i might like it better there actually

Some bars in Golden Gai have themes, and Kodoji is an out-and-out photographer’s bar, complete with a whole bunch of great photo books in a back corner. There are two exhibits up each month, always shot by regular patrons. As for the prints, they’re actually not that amazing, but it’s a nice to literally “hang out” with them. If you stop in on the right night, you might even see the guy himself, and if you can handle a bit of Japanese you’re sure to have interesting conversations with the other patrons anyway.

I’ve added an entry for Kodoji to my map of Tokyo stuff, but beware!! The marker is not exact, it only marks the general Golden Gai area. Golden Gai bars are not exactly secretive, but I’m also not comfortable publishing the exact location online. Here’s a hint, though, the name of the place is written out in hiragana


							

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Daido Moriyama, Kodoji

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2009, Oct 06
About the concept of flow in photography

This summer, people talked about flow, or at least reblogged about it a fair bit.

Is it unreasonable to say that nothing could be farther from a photograph than the concept of flow? Photographs usually show single arrested moment, not a perfectly continuous series of them. (This exclude time lapse photography, but…) In a book, there’s a relation between images, but it’s more like the relation between items in a collection. Photography isn’t video!

Why does it make sense to talk about flow? Even if an image is static, it can be produced from a fluid technique. I mean something like letting things come to you, or throwing yourself into things—it’s a form of being unintentional either way. Maybe the “trick” of this technique is to keep different thoughts in mind, until they form “a tension so exact that it is peace,” as Robert Adams said.

This tension could be found in a shadow and a person:

or a painting and some walls:

or a train, a person and a city:

We can read these images and say that the things in them are as an expression of tension; they are totally arbitrary, totally ordinary, the train doesn’t need to be a train, it could have been anything but there happened to be a train there. But what kind of tension are we talking about? Maybe it’s between the actual flow of moments—dude… time!!!—and the concrete stillness we get back from the camera.

I had thought about this in late July while I was walking up a hill in Hokkaido, it appeared to me so clearly, now that I’ve written it out and gone over it a bunch of times it mostly seems confusing and pointless. But I want to publish it, just so that I can get over the thought. “A work is the death mask of its conception” – Benjamin


							

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