Charleston, South Carolina by Robert Frank 1955

Looking In: Robert Frank's The Americans

This exhibition celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of The Americans, Robert Frank’s influential suite of black-and-white photographs made on a cross-country road trip in 1955–56. Although Frank’s depiction of American life was criticized when the book was released in the U.S. in 1959, it soon became recognized as a masterpiece of street photography. Born in Switzerland in 1924, Frank is considered one of the great living masters of photography. The exhibition features all 83 photographs published in The Americans and will be the first time that this body of work is presented to a New York audience.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
through January 3rd, 2010

Happy anniversary PHOTO/arts Magazine !...

Three years ago today I started this blog with the photograph below, which remains one of my favorites. A huge thank you to all who read this journal/magazine on a random or regular basis. I have tried very hard to maintain a balance between the unavoidable self absorption that all blogs inherently are, and topics beyond that myopia. I am very happy with the way this project has evolved in a short three years, and look forward to the road ahead. I hope you will continue to journey with me.

seed fury. 2006

Two of my favorite photographers from Flickr just happened to post independent images that work perfectly together as a strange diptych.

The top photo is by There's a Ghost in my Backyard

The bottom photo is by Salva Lopez

Let us first say what photography is not. A photograph is not a painting, a poem, a symphony, a dance. It is not just a pretty picture, not an exercise in contortionist techniques and sheer print quality. It is or should be a significant document, a penetrating statement, which can be described in a very simple term- selectivity.

Berenice Abbott
Photography at the Crossroads
weegee at a murder. 1942

Subway Killing Captured by a Photo Student
empty retail . 2009
Walker Evans (on himself)

On April 8, 1975, two days before his death, Walker Evans spoke to a class at Harvard about the course of his life and work.

"I am self taught, and I still think that is a good way to be. You learn as you go and do. It is a little slow, but I think that's the way to work...

I have had a good number of years of more or less compulsive photography; I am devoted to it, and still get a great deal of excitement out of looking at things and getting them the way I want. However, you won't find me overly intellectual about what we are all interested in doing.

I work rather blindly, and I don't think an awful lot about what I am doing. I have a theory that seems to work with me that some of the best things you ever do sort of come through you. You don't know where you get the impetus and the response to what is before your eyes, but you are using your eyes all the time and teaching yourself unconsciously really from morning to night.

There are several tenets that go with this craft of ours. One of them is that the real gift and value in a picture is really not a thought; it is a sensation that is based on a feeling. Most people in our tradition are basically rather scared of feeling. You have to unpeel that before you can really get going and not be afraid of feeling".

from Inside the Photograph by Peter C Bunnell
mountains. Lansdale, Pa. 2009
”The main reason that artists don’t willingly describe or explain what they produce is, however, that the minute they do so they’ve admitted failure. Words are proof that the vision they had is not, in the opinion of some at least, fully there in the picture. Characterizing in words what they thought they’d shown is an acknowledgment that the photograph is unclear- that it is not art.”
Robert Adams
Why People Photograph

I love the following essay by Zoe Strauss explaining her approach to student critiques. I love it because I am right in the middle of writing an essay to explain my own project Random Ghosts, and her down to earth advice here will no doubt shake loose much of the conjectural bull shit that has been floating inside my head. I also love it because not once does she mention the word form, or composition, or subject. No discussion of vision or creativity. Zoe doesn't even use the word photography. This essay could be used generically for any artistic medium, and by any artist who struggles with the fears associated with the overtly revealing nature of making art; what Steiglitz calls the "severe mental process".. of discovering "what you have to say and how to say it." Zoe's entire approach is about getting to the core of exactly that.

The Zoe Strauss Guide to Crits by Zoe Strauss (2009)

In the last 2 years I've found that I do a lot of student crits, which is a kind of odd thing to be doing because it seems a little crazy that people want my opinion of their school work. But I've come to like it and really look to do a good job. I'm not slacking, friends. One thing that seems to be different from my talking and talking about someones stuff vs. the critiquing style of other people is that I am unremittingly positive. It doesn't mean I'm not honest, I think that as a person coming into someones space to look at their unfinished work is about the process and less about the product. This is because I don't give a shit if I "like" the work or not. I think these critiques have nothing to do with one's own aesthetic sensibility and is about the intent, skill and thought process of the person making the work and how they can get to where they want to be.

I seem to have a loose formulaic structure at this point... if the work is close to done I tell the student what I see in it. I try and read it as it is with no input or description of the piece from the student and then I tell them my immediate reaction and reading of the piece. I have a tendency to read metaphor into a lot things where there was no intent, but I think that if I'm thinking it someone else must be as well. The biggest question that needs to be answered is whether someone is getting across what they want to convey. And then, depending on where the work is at, a billion things need to be answered. Who is the audience? How do you see it presented in final form? blah blah blah.

And if the work is in the formative stages of being created I like to find out about the person and what makes them come to want to create this work. What's their interest in making the piece and where is coming from? Are they happy with the concept? What research are they doing to help move the piece forward? What about the logistics that goes into making the piece? And skill that goes into making the piece?

There are definitively times where I've been like, "what the fuck is this?" because the kid is trying to get over with some total bullshit by couching a description of the piece in completely unrelated academic jargon. I have no qualms with terrible work where someone is really trying. It's up to me to help them think about ways to refine and rethink the piece, even if I think it blows. And I have no problem with folks having no idea why they're making something. I think that kind of exploration is healthy and in graduate school what an amazing time to use the unconscious and just be like "Holy shit, so that's what I've been thinking about!"

This thing about these crits is that it's just my opinion... I hate a lot of art that people love, so, again, who cares if I "like" it? However, if you are trying to disguise a piece of shit by using language and unrelated theory... you're getting called out, no question.
Nuclear Waste to Pass Through Maryland. by John Wood 2002

Bruce Silverstein Gallery is pleased to announce John Wood Collages, 1955 – 2006. John Wood is known as an artist’s artist. He is one of the pre-eminent artists and educators of our time. A master of processes from straight photography, collage, cliché verre, solarization, mixed media, offset lithography to drawing. He has an incredible ability to work decisively across a variety of media with ease. Wood spent 35 years teaching photography and printmaking at the School of Art and Design at Alfred University in Alfred New York. His teaching, his art making, and his life are intricately entwined, each reinforcing the other.

This exhibit runs until December 12th, 2009

Bruce Silverstein Gallery
535 West 24th Street
New York, NY 10011

more on John Wood
fans by Jean Fitzgerald. 2009

Jean Fitzgerald is a sculptor and glass artist. By her own admission, she is not a photographer, (per se).
But that's what helps make this such an interesting photograph in my opinion. The surrealism and animation that presents itself here has nothing to do with being or not being a photographer.This is not a found scene that has been transformed into a composition. This is a documentation of pure folk art.
value city. 2009

Pieces of a Man

by Gil Scott-Heron

Jagged jigsaw pieces
Tossed about the room
I saw my grandma sweeping
With her old straw broom
But she didn't know what she was doing
She could hardly understand
That she was really sweeping up..
Pieces of a man

I saw my daddy greet the mailman
And I heard the mailman say
"Now don't you take this letter to heart now Jimmy
Cause they've laid off nine others today"
But he didn't know what he was saying
He could hardly understand
That he was only talking to
Pieces of a man

I saw the thunder and heard the lightning!
And felt the burden of his shame
And for some unknown reason
He never turned my way

Pieces of that letter
Were tossed about that room
And now I hear the sound of sirens
Come knifing through the gloom

But they don't know what they are doing
They could hardly understand
That they're only arresting
Pieces of a man

I saw him go to pieces
I saw him go to pieces
He was always such a good man
He was always such a strong man
Yeah, I saw him go to pieces
I saw him go to pieces
black friday. 2008

Calls for Work: Picture Black Friday

Every year, Black Friday rings in the yearly holiday shopping season, with hundreds of thousands of people getting up before sunrise to queue for bargains and deals; when the doors are unlocked, the stores being besieged by their own customers. During Black Friday last year, security guard Jdimytai Damour, was trampled to death by crazed shoppers as he tried to hold back bargain seekers at a Walmart in Long Island . Unfortunately, the uproar in the media was mostly over by the end of the weekend.
Picture Black Friday is a photojournalism project that aims to revisit and analyze a combination of forces- a worsening economy, financial desperation, excitement, fear, and a distinctly American cultural tradition- that culminate the morning after Thanksgiving.
More specifically, Picture Black Friday is an open call for photographers throughout the U.S. to go out and produce images that document Black Friday- how you see it, on your terms

Picture Black Friday details
Jagged jigsaw pieces
Tossed about the room
I saw my grandma sweeping
With her old straw broom
But she didn't know what she was doing
She could hardly understand
That she was really sweeping up..
Pieces of a man
goodwill. 2009

The Huffington Post is featuring this photo as the cover for the current Capture The Recession slideshow.

Goodwill for All
Pretzel Boutique. 2009

I can't pass by one of these Pretzel Stores without thinking about the classic Saturday Night Live skit from the late 70's, The Scotch Boutique. Here in the Philadelphia area, pretzel franchises are literally popping up all over the place and yet everyone I talk to about this phenomenon just shrugs their shoulders and says "I don't get it either!". How do you explain a store the size of an average 7-11 that sells only one product? Yeah yeah, I know... they sell soda and cheese dip too, but seriously... just pretzels?? I drive by this particular store almost every day. It's been open about a month now. I never see any cars in the parking lot. It's directly across the street from a Wawa, and if you are from the Philly area you know that there is never an empty space in a Wawa parking lot at any time of day. And yes, Wawa sells soft pretzels in addition to a thousand other items.

So if you can't remember the SNL Scotch Boutique skit, here is the transcript. It's from October 14th, 1978. Fred Willard is Walker, and Gilda Radner is Jenny.

Walker: I knew it. You don't believe in this place, do ya? You don't believe in me.

Jenny: [tries to be reassuring] Honey, honey, I do. I do. It's just that it's been two months.

Walker: [deeply serious] Listen, a business takes time to build. It isn't done overnight. Nobody makes money their first couple of months. I thought you understood all of that.

Jenny: [horribly conflicted] I do, I do, I do. I - I - I - I - I don't know. [Two men have entered and stand in the doorway - Jenny sees them and becomes instantly cheerful] Oh, welcome to Scotch Boutique!

1st Man: [to Jenny] Um, do you sell any recording tape here?

Jenny: [cheerfully] No, just the sticky kind.

2nd Man: [to the first man] See? I told ya.

[The 2nd Man turns away to keep from laughing out loud. The 1st Man, stunned, smiles broadly and looks around at the store in amazement. The two men exit.]

Walker: [calls after the men, cheerfully] Next time you need the sticky kind, you'll know where to come! [instantly serious, to Jenny] I mean, I thought you understood that this was my dream. You said it was a good idea. Do you think in a million years, I'd draw out every last red cent of our - our savings account and invest it in this business if I thought you didn't think it was a good idea?

[A woman enters but, by now, Jenny is too distracted to greet her.]

2nd Woman: Uh, do you have any recording tape?

Walker: [pleasantly] No, just cellophane. The sticky kind. If you need any of the sticky kind, you know where to come!

2nd Woman: Okay, thanks.

Jenny: [weakly] Come again.

[The woman exits. Jenny, on the verge of tears, can't look Walker in the eye.]

Walker: Well, I guess that does it. I - I - I can't go on surrounded by quitters and - and doubters. Calls for a team effort. ... I'll never forget a story my uncle once told me. My uncle owned a little restaurant in Pennsylvania. It was real famous for a long time for its chicken salad. [Jenny and Kevin, who sits on his stool with comic book in hand, listen with interest] Well, one day, they couldn't get any chicken to put in the salad. So my uncle, what he did, he called together the employees. ... [Walker pauses to light his pipe] And he said, "Look, why don't we put turkey in that salad instead of chicken?" Well, of course, everyone was real nervous at first because they didn't know what was gonna happen. But you want to know something? Not one person even noticed that it was turkey instead of chicken. Now, that's what I call teamwork.

Jenny: [completely won over] I'm sorry, honey. I'll give it another chance. I believe in you.

Walker: [takes her hand] Thank you, honey.

And just to clarify, this is the only acceptable way to sell pretzels in Philly!
whee ! (work in progress) 2009

Folk sculpture assembled from scavenged objects. The little pebble with the face on it and the driftwood body were found on the beach in October. I knew immediately that they belonged together as a flying man, but it took several weeks to visualize the hoop, and my initial feeling was of a flaming hoop. I'm still working on how to represent the flames in the context of rustic folk art. I would like to replace the shop rag cape with an old piece of American flag or similarly interesting old fabric, and I am searching for the perfect little hat for the top of his head!
from Sequence 17. by Minor White

A sequence of photographs, then,
functions as a little drama
of dreams with a memory

Minor White
Rites & Passages

appalachian trail rock. C H Paquette 2009
Gil Scott-Heron by Alix Dejean 1975

Gil Scott-Heron
November 4th 8PM
B B King Blues Club
237 West 42 Street
New York, NY

From the B B King Blues Club web site...

Poet, musician, activist, author, bluesologist. These are all terms that have been used to describe the great Gil Scott-Heron, who more humbly refers to himself simply as a "piano player from Tennessee". Most famous for his era-defining 1970's poem, "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," Gil Scott-Heron’s politically charged material made him a stalwart figure in the 1970’s civil rights movement. His lyrical content covered topics like the superficiality of television and mass consumerism, the hypocrisy of some would-be Black revolutionaries, white middle-class ignorance of the difficulties faced by inner-city residents, and fear of homosexuals.

Not only a pioneer of blues, jazz and funk, his honesty, matter-of-fact delivery and fearlessness to address important social issues in the face of media criticism made him one of the foremost progenitors of contemporary hip-hop and spoken word.

Among countless other allusions and references, Public Enemy used the phrase “the revolution will not be televised” to open its classic 1987 album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and Kanye West sampled Gil’s timeless “Home is Where the Hatred Is” on the Common-supported “On My Way” from 2005’s Late Registration.

In the current global climate of social and political upheaval, Gil Scott-Heron has picked the perfect time to resurface and offer his catalogue up for consumption again, along with some new material. Gil is currently close to completion on his latest book, The Last Holiday, which tells the story of Stevie Wonder's 1980 campaign to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a national holiday.

He will release his first new studio album since 1994 next year. Snippets from four of the album's songs, 'A.M.', 'I'm New Here', 'Me And The Devil' and 'I'll Take Care Of You', can be heard now at the official website for the album,

Unpredictable throughout his career, Gil Scott-Heron remains somewhat of a mystery to the public; fans will have to show up to his live performances to see what songs he’ll perform and what iconic musicians will show up to join him.

Gil Scott-Heron just performed two sold-out concerts @ the Blue Note, NYC, and various venues on the East Coast. Next is a European Tour, to promote his new CD.

I'm new here
wrestlers. Digital Triptych (2008/2009)

Gearing up for the start of another wrestling season, one of my photo documentary projects for the past five years. I have scaled back on the number of matches I attend now that my son's are no longer in high school, but I will continue to document this team for several more years at least.

I submitted these three images to the Arcadia University Works on Paper juried competition. Today is the last day to get your work submitted for this show.