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2009, Apr 16
Photoblogs that remind me of photobooks

Here are links to three photoblogs. There aren’t too many words, just good color images.

CLAM$ CA$INO (mike spears)
marking’s (mark king)
growing up (patrick tsai and coley brown)

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2009, Apr 14
Peter Funch and computer-assisted hoop-jumping

There’s a new entrant in the field of “photography where everyone is doing the same thing,” and this time, it’s got Boing Boing link juice behind it! When I wrote about this style a couple of weeks ago, I said that it “turns photography into hoop-jumping: ‘did you see how many fools I snapped doing this?’” I had assumed that the photos were documents of an instant that actually happened—if you look hard enough in a city, patterns emerge—but maybe that’s not the case. Have a look:

Kind of amazing how all those people are posing, no? Hey, where are any of the people with cameras? Oh maybe here:

What’s going on here is that Peter Funch has taken a whole bunch of pictures in Times Square (and other NYC locations), and stitched them together later so that it *looks like* everyone was actually there at the same time. Now that I think about it, Bahbak Hashemi-Nezhad probably uses this technique too. Color me… bored. As I said the first time, real work was put in to these images, but there’s nothing risked here at all, success was inevitable from the start. Basically this technique moves about as much as HDR flower photography.

I’m left wondering why still cameras were chosen to record these projects. If you’re going to stand in a spot for and wait until someone does [action X] or [is wearing all color Z], why not videotape it?? It would be a lot more interesting to see even a short clip of Times Square filled with people posing for photos, or of a Shinjuku station where people are only waving to each other.

Addendum: If I was a better 2point8 reader, I would have seen this three months ago…

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2009, Apr 13
Alexander Martinez and unknown pleasures

I’m supposed to have a bunch of books shipped out to me from home at some point, although I don’t know when. Opening up your own books, which you packed yourself, is a great pleasure which I look forward to. (”I am unpacking my library. Yes, I am.”) After putting away the “real books,” though I will be glad to page through the small photo publications I’ve acquired over the past year or so. In particular, I can already imagine the nostalgia I will feel looking through a couple of zines from Alexander Martinez.

The textures in these zines will be familiar to any young-ish person in San Francisco: metal apartment gates, stucco, empty bottles, stained sidewalks, flannel, bay windows, drunken light rain.

His new zine is called We’ve got tonight, and while I haven’t seen in person, thanks to the wonders of technology I can bring you the following image culled from its pages:

You can flip through his other zines online, I recommend “Kids Stay Free.”

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2009, Apr 02
“Orderly Conduct”

This series has great potential. It’s a compelling idea to capture images in which everyone is doing the same thing, and the execution is beyond reproach. But the result, for me, turns photography into hoop-jumping: “did you see how many fools I snapped doing this?”

Bahbak Hashemi-Nezhad

The accompanying artist statement is also problematic, as these things tend to be:

These images present a parallel view of public space. Revealing behaviours and modes of existence that characterize the notion of public, but are no longer visible or registered due to their ubiquity.

This statement actually runs counter to the work that went into the images: the photographer had to hunt them down and force them into existence. Rather than showing that these behaviors “are no longer visible,” I am assaulted by their visibility. Aren’t you too? Confusing.

I want the photographer to jump through one more hoop, and a much bigger one at that: once you’ve got all your ducks in a row, play them off of their setting, too!

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2009, Apr 02
Sugimoto and U2, point/counterpoint

Point: some of U2’s music is awesome. Achtung Baby and The Joshua Tree in particular are certified classics, with songs that I’ll probably never get tired of hearing. “Where The Streets Have No Name” is an obvious choice, but most of the songs on these albums are pretty good.

“Zoo Station,” my favorite U2 song now and forever

Counterpoint: a lot of their other music is boring, despite what Jon Pareles might say. Bono has become legendary not just for his voice, but for his ego, too. There’s a feeling about U2 that they will carry on interminably, probably until they become some sort of sideshow like The Rolling Stones.

Point: Hiroshi Sugimoto is one of the most compelling photographers on the international scene. His exhibit at the De Young museum is my favorite, ever—I would go there at least once every weekend, sometimes twice, and soak up the images there. His movie theaters, seascapes (used on the album cover), dioramas and “Sea of Buddha” have all affected me. He’s also a clear writer: each section of the De Young exhibit came with an insightful but concise explanation of the images.

Canton Palace, Ohio, 1980

Counterpoint: For as many great works as he puts out, Sugimoto is sometimes prone to flights of fancy. His images of mathematical formulas are weak, and the images he made of an empty 10,000 square foot loft in Tokyo, painted all white (the idea was to bring out different shades of white around corners) was decadent, to say the least.

Resolution: I think Sugimoto is saying “I’M THE OSIRIS OF THIS SHIT,” and no one can dispute this. I don’t believe in the concept of “selling out”—as long as an artist’s work is still good, why should anyone be angry if it gets wide distribution? In one move, Sugimoto has broadcasted his image around the world, in unadulterated form no less. It’s easy to imagine Bono’s supreme smugness over this deal, but who cares. I hope the seascape image blows people’s minds in the strange corners of the world where this album is bound to show up, by hook or by crook. Who needs going viral anyway?

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2009, Mar 31
Hiroshi Sugimoto x U2

Cribbed directly from Amazon.com, this is the cover of U2’s new album:

Hmm… it looks familiar, but from where? Of course, that man Sugimoto.

“There is no commercial aspect to my relation with U2. No cash is involved.”

“I said ‘How about a Stone Age deal — no cash?’”

Bono agreed on an “artist-to-artist” barter whereby Sugimoto could use the “No Line on the Horizon” song in any project he wanted in the future. Sugimoto says he still hasn’t made up his mind about how to use the song — which he says he likes, but liked even better in its “more hard rock” demo stage.

Full story at The Japan Times.

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2009, Mar 25
Stay on target…

I’ve been on a vacation for a little while, and I’ll be away for almost another week or so. In the meantime, I’ve posted some Kyocera TD images to my photoblog, which for the moment is stupidly titled “Tokyo says hello“.

I was happy to see an email from Farewell Books, announcing their latest offering, Mårten Lange’s “Anomalies”. Farewell are a good publisher of short-run books, last year they put out a book by Wakaba Noda which I quite liked, and which is still available. This latest book is all black and white, and it looks very interesting:

Who can explain why the Swedes take so many pictures with flash? A few months ago I wanted to do a post finding as many photos as I could which were:
-in color
-taken by a Swede
-medium format, preferably
-shot with heavy flash

The post never came together, but I am still intrigued by this style, if not exactly attracted to it. The Lange book looks very good though, click on to Farewell’s site to see a better preview. I especially like the image of the stark white wall with darkness outside.

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2009, Mar 13
Kyocera TD: a Zeiss lens for $8

For a while, Kyocera manufactured a bunch of Yashica TX series models, putting world-famous Zeiss lenses in plain black boxes. I became familiar with these models when I saw a Kyocera TD (original Yashica T equivalent) in a shop in Okayama for 7000 yen, about $70. I passed it up, figuring that I could find it in Tokyo later. I ended up finding a TD on Yahoo Auctions for Y1500. I was feeling pretty pleased with myself on the way to meet the seller, who happened to be located in Tokyo. I felt even better when he took 50% off the price because of a minor defect with the battery cover. A 3.5/35mm Tessar lens for about $8? I’m with that.

Kyocera TD

The guy who sold me the camera makes a business out of fixing up old cameras and selling them on Yahoo Auctions. His entire shop—a small apartment which I can only hope does not also double as his living space—is absolutely covered in cameras, half-gutted bodies, straps, cases, and batteries from floor to ceiling. My dad once spent a summer working for free at an audio repair shop on Long Island, I have half a mind to email this guy and see if I couldn’t do the same thing, to learn about fixing up cameras.

packing tape steez

On the whole, I like the camera, especially for the price. The results are very good: images are sharp from corner to corner, which I guess should be expected from a Zeiss lens. It’s not perfect though: autofocus sometimes gets confused by close objects, and there’s no AF override, so you’re stuck with whatever the TD thinks is best. Also, a few shots from my test rolls came out overexposed. Maybe, like the Konica Hexar AF, it has a fairly slow max shutter speed, and I’ve run up against it by using 400 speed film. (The Hexar can’t go any faster than 1/250.)

Unlike the quiet Hexar, though, this is a very “rude” camera! Automatic film winding is noisy, and the camera will also use flash whenever it thinks that it’s necessary—you can override flash mode, but to do so you have to push a button on the top of the camera, as you’re also pushing the shutter. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to shoot quickly if you want to be sure of not using flash. Still, I’m really happy with this camera. I wanted to get something new for a trip to Cambodia and Vietnam that I’m about to take, and I’m glad to have an un-precious camera.

Update 4/6/08: After seeing more results from this camera, I’ve noticed that the highlights really do get blown out a lot. It seems to do better in softer light. Also, here’s some more examples from the camera.

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2009, Mar 12
Tokyo Beats exhibition in Shibuya

Here is an online flyer for an exhibition of photos by The Tokyo Beats, a group of foreign photographers here in Tokyo. As always it will be good to see printed work (looks like a lot of black and white no less) rather than pixels. It’s coming up in April, at “stylish” Osteria La Vela Cafe in Shibuya. There’s an longgg opening reception of reasonable length on April 1 April 4, the exhibit is up for the rest of the month, OK here’s the flyer already:

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2009, Mar 11
Too much Daido? (or, “Takusan Moriyama san?”)

Daido Moriyama is a personal hero: after all, one of his photos graces the header of this blog. Two of his recent shows, though, have been a bit disappointing.

Let’s back up for a second. Moriyama’s signature style is a black-and-white photograph which has been exposed, developed and printed with an eye towards extreme contrast. It is hard to mistake one of his stronger photographs for the work of anyone else. When looking at a book of Moriyama’s photos, you might not be drawn into each image, but they can all generally hold your attention. When you do make a connection with an image, the effect is heightened because of the striking tones of black and white. At his best, Moriyama makes it pleasurable to look at a very plain image, because it has been modified so dramatically by his process.

a Moriyama image from Buenos Aires

So what could go wrong with an exhibit? In short, presentation. The first show I saw was a joint exhibit with the Brazilian photographer Miguel Rio Branco. Moriyama photographed São Paulo, and Rio Branco photographed Tokyo. On the way into the exhibit were five Moriyama prints, well spaced out in a line. This gave time to look at each image. So far so good, but then came the centerpiece of Moriyama’s contribution. Imagine a wall 50 feet long. Then imagine that wall completely covered in a grid of about 100 photographs, all printed quite large, in borderless frames and mounted within an inch of each other. If it’s hard to visualize this, here’s a cellphone picture of the other exhibition I saw (“Hokkaido”), which was presented in the same way:

“Hokkaido” at Rat Hole Gallery

Maybe Moriyama’s books are thrown together at random, but this way of exhibiting seems like a way of not actually editing his work. When you want to move on from one image, your eye can go in eight different directions! I suppose that this presentation does highlight Moriyama’s process—the effect of seeing so much beautifully realized contrast in one place is striking. But it’s also overpowering: how are you supposed to look at anything?

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