Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Best of 2013

Drive Thru, POTY, 2013
This is my second Best-Of post, the first being from December, 2012.  This year's set contains 15 images, all but one shot in the first half of the year.  As with last year, the number could have been higher or lower, it just happened to be the number I truly liked.  Unlike last year, I won't post all of them, but will only comment on the POTY and the runner up.  The entire set is viewable in my Flickr feed by clicking here.

The POTY, Drive Thru, was shot in Wynwood on my return from my studio at the Bakehouse.  I was stopped at a light and just raised the camera and snapped off a shot.  Composition and tonality are the two things I like most in photography and the reason I shoot predominantly in black & white. This image has it all.  The sign on the extreme right third of the image tells you exactly where you are and acts as a counterpoint to the subjects on the left.  The left-side is lighted nearer the bottom whereas the right-side is lighted from where the left-side leave off all the way to the top.

The people in the image, though, complete the photo.  They are illuminated by the store and almost organically a part of the image.  Because of the tonality, the interplay between light and shadow and the presence of people engaged in ordinary tasks, this photo has always reminded me of an Edward Hopper painting, albeit in black & white.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

15 Hoods, Redux

15 Hoods, ©2013

The premier of 15 Hoods went very well.  Despite the event coinciding with Yom Kippur, we seemed to have plenty of people in the studio and throughout the Bakehouse as well.  Both the photo and the installation drew favorable responses from visitors and three inquiries for possible future shows.  Not bad, I think.

The photo, shown above, is about 30x40 inches as currently displayed.  However, because each portrait is a distinct image ranging from 10 to 12 megapixels after cropping, the image should be indefinitely scalable.  Projection on the side of a building anyone?

The models in the photo range in age from toddler to middle age, male and female and yes, the guy second from the right in the lower row is me.  The idea of the piece was to render 15 nearly identical images in black & white, except the middle image which is clearly identifiable as a young African American male and is rendered in full color.  Essentially, each of us can look nefarious in a hoodie under the right conditions but society's attention is still drawn to the black male above all others.

Along with the piece, the installation also included out-takes and informal portraits of the models intended to show that they are really just people in hoods and that at heart we are all the same. Rounding out the installation is a series of images from the vigil for Trayvon Martin at the Torch of Friendship earlier this year.

The installation will remain on exhibit through October, 2013 in the Bakehouse Art Complex, Studio 3U and by private viewing by appointment.

Monday, September 2, 2013

15 Hoods

Background shot from the 15 Hoods photo shoot

Immediately after the story broke, I remember feeling a sense of surprise and indignation that the Sanford Police let George Zimmerman go without much thought based on Florida's "Stand Your Ground Law."  I felt that they, at least, ought to have asked the simple question, Which of these two actually stood his ground and confronted an attacker?  Was it the older man who acted against the direct instructions of a police dispatcher or the young man who was being stalked by a "creep" in an SUV?  At the very least, I thought the SPD should have referred the case to the State Attorney's Office, if for nothing else then just for CYA purposes.

That surprise, however, was nothing compared to the surprise I felt when the Special Prosecutor filed charges of second degree murder against Zimmerman in the absence of much supporting evidence and absolutely no witnesses or apparent motive.  Being legally trained, I felt the better charge, the sustainable and provable charge would have been manslaughter.  It also had the added benefit of comporting with the provable facts.

When the jury returned its verdict, I felt justice had not been served but that they had nonetheless rendered the legally correct decision.  In computing, there's an axiom: GIGO, garbage in, garbage out. You can't blame the computer if you ask it the wrong question or ask the right question but in the wrong manner. Similarly, you can't really blame the jury if you've asked it the wrong question and given it no option but to return a bad answer.

I wasn't surprised, but like many, I was disappointed.

I was, however, very surprised at the steps the right-wing corporate media took to legitimate the shooting by demonizing an article of clothing, the hoodie.  Most infamous in this regard is Geraldo Rivera who is quoted in The Huffington Post as saying that "hoodies reminded people of criminals like the Unabomber and thus put (the wearer) in danger".

I must confess, I have long since stopped watching or reading the right-wing corporate media.  While Faux News is the worst offender, in my opinion, the so-called mainstream media are little more than stenographers to power.  Still, using this article of clothing in order to legitimate the death of a young man who was doing little more than walking in a neighborhood that he had every right to be in was a new low, even by today's debased media standards.  It's as if none of the so-called reporters have children who wear hoodies.  Seriously, don't they know any seventeen-year-olds?

And so was born my idea of 15 Hoods.

15 Hoods is both an image and an installation.  The image, consisting of 15 portraits of people wearing hoods, will be shown for the first time on September 13, 2013 at the Bakehouse Art Complex, in my Studio, 3U on the second floor.  As an installation, it will also feature background images, outtakes and a separate set on the Vigil for Trayvon held at the Torch of Friendship in Miami.

If you find yourself in Miami that evening and do not have to attend Yom Kippur services, I hope you will consider attending.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Mermaid Parade, 2013

FDNY truck sprays water on the Mermaid Parade
 So, I went to the Mermaid Parade and a police event broke out.  Sounds like a joke, but seriously, the whole thing was pretty whacked.  I've photographed the parade for years and have always had a great time.  The real point is to by-pass the parade itself and stroll down the boardwalk to meet the mermaids and photograph them.  Great fun, well, until this year.  The photo above was taken from the New York Aquarium's bridge to the boardwalk.  Unlike other years, this was the only way to get across, at least from this end of the parade.  If you look closely at the photo you'll see a row of police cruisers.  Behind that row they had set up a pen to funnel the parade-goers like cattle.  It was unbelievably and unnecessarily crowded.  [more below the fold]

Friday, June 14, 2013

Capture Coral Gables

Dancers Photographed During Carnaval on The Mile
On Exhibit in the Coral Gables Museum July 5, 2013

To the rest of the world, I live and work in Miami.  To residents of "Miami", that actually depends on where you stand.  Like the cities of London, Boston and Atlanta, "Miami" is a conurbation, "a region comprising a number of cities, large towns, and other urban areas that, through population growth and physical expansion, have merged to form one continuous urban and industrially developed area."  Wikipedia.  Miami is a conurbation of over 30 cities that have grown to the point that they abut in a nearly continuous manner, almost like a jigsaw puzzle, each with its own feel and vibe and even its own socio-economic demographic.  One of these is Coral Gables.

Known here simply as The Gables, Coral Gables offers a counterpoint to the region's hub, the City of Miami.  While the City of Miami is very urban, with many run-down neighborhoods next to beautiful high-rises, and many neighborhoods that seem to be in a state of perpetual gentrification, The Gables is the city that just seems to make everything work.  It is clean, relatively well-run, and close enough to the urban center that it defies the term "suburb".

Like everything in life, though, it does have its trade-offs.  While the City of Miami can seem at times like part of the developing world, it is a bustle of activity and unexpected experiences.  It is not uncommon to drive past a group of people protesting against the Castro regime, then encounter a group of hipsters strolling down Calle Ocho, bankers and lawyers on Brickell and finally pass some homeless-looking guy, on a bike, carrying his dog strapped across his back like a wounded soldier.  I'm not exaggerating; I've actually seen all this.

The Gables, though, seems to screen out any such unexpected encounters.  It is the embodiment of a mature and solid city, home to many doctors, lawyers and accountants.  An example of the differences is Carnaval.

Both the City of Miami and Coral Gables each has a Carnaval, but the two cannot be any more different.  Miami's is raucous, loud, jittery and crowded -- and I don't mean any of that in a bad way, either.  Carnaval on the Mile, as it's known in Coral Gables, is pleasant and well behaved.  I also don't mean that in a bad way, either.  It's essentially the difference between a Daddy Yankee concert and one by Gloria Estefan.  You can enjoy both or either, but just not the same way.

The photo above was taken during Carnaval on the Mile, on the last day actually, a beautiful Sunday afternoon.  The dancers look young, wholesome, and vibrant.  The street is clean, even after three days of Carnaval, and the event appears well-attended but not overcrowded.  That's The Gables.

The photo also will be on exhibit in the Coral Gables Museum this summer in their Capture Coral Gables show.  The opening is July 5, 2013 at 6PM.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Leica M-E

Leica M-E, getting some love.  Couldn't resist.  Can't tell if the lens is a 50 Summicron, but sure looks just like mine.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Two Silhouettes and a Smile

Much of what passes for black & white photography nowadays actually looks like color photography that has been amped in Photoshop and converted to B&W.  I suppose this stems from most B&W originating in digital cameras, almost all of which are equipped with color sensors.  Most users have come to photography by converting to color and have never really developed a B&W aesthetic.  In their minds, I suppose, B&W is nothing other than color images without the color.  When I can see everything in a B&W image in a heightened, super-realistic sort of way, it just creeps me out because it simply doesn't look right.  Real B&W is as much about the shadows as it is about the lights, as much about what you can't see as what you can.

A few weeks ago I attended an outdoor party with friends.  The lighting was atrocious and, even more importantly, it illuminated the scene from the wrong direction.  Anyway, I managed to capture this image of a couple at the party and got just enough illumination on the woman's face to make the image useful.  I don't like that the highlight on her chin is clipped, but considering this was shot at ISO2500 and pushed two stops in Lightroom, I think it's the best that can be hoped for.

I really like the image anyway, though.  You can see in it a couple that appears genuinely happy with each other even though you can't actually make out much else in the image except two silhouettes and a smile.  IMHO, this is what B&W is all about.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Running With the Swift

It's been nearly a year since I got that call telling me I had been juried into the Bakehouse.  Just the day before, I had thought that I hadn't been accepted.  After all, it had been over a month since I had applied and I'd heard nothing at all.  I was feeling pretty down, actually, when the phone went off.  “You've been accepted”, the voice said.  That was it, I had passed the jury.  I was vetted.  People who know what they're doing said my work was good, that my photos were art.  I was in.  Wow.

It's been a great year, one with many lessons learned that will probably be the subject of other blog entries.  Still, the most important thing I've learned from this year is that I need to constantly strive to improve my work.  This doesn't mean buying new equipment or obsessing about sharpness like people do on the photography forums.  No, it means I must actually improve the work, strive to push the envelope, explore new subjects and techniques and do all that while remaining true to my style and to myself. I've learned this by looking at the work of other artists at the Bakehouse, but especially my incoming class.  These are some excellent artists that includes painters, sculptors, mixed media and several who also incorporate photography in their work.  I look at their work, especially the other new photographer, and am just wowed by the quality and the creativity.

All my life I've tried to surround myself with good people, to be inspired by them and to be motivated by them to excel.  Well, these people are excellent and I'm glad of it.  To strive for excellence you must run with the swift.

The photo in this blog entry is of the year's entering class at the Bakehouse.  It's the promo for our end-of-the-year show called Recently Acquired IV, curated by Ananda Demello.  The opening will be held on March 8, 2013 at 7PM in the Audrey Love Gallery in the Bakehouse.  I'll have three pieces in the show.

Monday, January 21, 2013

San Sebastian

Dancer in front of Brickell Irish Pub, Festival de San Sebastian

La Fiesta de la Calle San Sebastian (The Festival of San Sebastian Street) in Puerto Rico made its way to the Brickell area of Miami.  Click here for the rest on Flickr.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Coney Island, After Sandy

Danger, Beach Closed
We traveled to New York for Thanksgiving, a little apprehensive given that it was only about three weeks since Hurricane Sandy struck the Northeast.  We had heard about the devastation, how the Subway was flooded, and how the Boardwalk had been washed out to sea.  When we got there, we saw that the City had actually weathered the storm fairly well and that the Subway, for the most part, was fine.  We also heard that the Atlantic City Boardwalk had been blown out to sea, but not the one in Coney Island.  Still, we made the trek out to Coney Island to survey the damage.

The damage, it turns out, was pretty extensive.  Famous Nathans, along with many other merchants, was closed and apparently being refitted because of flood damage.  The most impressive sight, though, was the sand: it was everywhere.  As you approach the Boardwalk from the landward side, you see the sand as far away as Stillwell Avenue.  Even more impressive, though, is how high the sand was piled.

The photo above shows the Boardwalk in the foreground and the beach in the background divided in the lower third by a railing curving into the sand.  The railing is actually part of the steps leading down the the beach, which ordinarily is about four feet below the Boardwalk.  The photo clearly shows the sand rising above the Boardwalk.  Although you can't see it from any photo, the gaps between the planks showed sand underneath.  Essentially, the sand had blown completely over and under the Boardwalk.

Selected photos of the series After Sandy will be on display in Studio 10-U at the Bakehouse Art Complex, Friday, January 11, 2013 beginning at 7.00 PM.  Click here to see the series After Sandy in my Flickr feed.