Saturday, December 18, 2010

Los Colores de Coahuila - Film from the Freezer

Street scene.  Location unknown, Coahuila, November 2004.

Of course, one of the problems of keeping film in the freezer forever is I sometimes forget where I took a certain photograph or roll of film.  This is one such case.  Nonetheless, it is a very intriguing scene.  

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Icelandic Sojourn

Granaries, outside Reykjavik, Iceland, August 2001

So I visit Iceland, and what do I photograph?  The spectacle of Icelandic nature in panoramic Technicolor?

No:  I shoot stark black-and-white images of the industrial stuff.  Just performing a public service no one else will!  :)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Stuff I Should Have Printed

Gnarled mesquite and epiphytes.  Kerr County, Texas, October 2000

When you go through hundreds of rolls of film in a year, it is entirely possible to miss great images like this one if you fail to contact print them.  Glad I finally got around to it.  

Friday, December 10, 2010

Los Colores de Coahuila - Film from the Freezer

Street Scene, Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico, March 2001

One of the best unintended consequences of storing film in the freezer for nearly a decade is when a print such as this sneaks up on you, and quietly grabs you.  I usually don't go for understatement, but this forgotten scene was apparently just too elegant to pass up.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Los Colores de Coahuila - Film from the Freezer

Paleteria.  Sabinas, Coahuila, Mexico, April 2002

I don't plan on leaving this earthly realm like Eggleston, leaving over 1,000 rolls of film in the freezer.  In fact, I am now below 90.  Just picked up this somewhat faded, but nonetheless sweet frozen treat from Walgreen's just today.  After nearly a decade in the Frigidaire, this one still makes my mouth water.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Semi-Abandoned Bikes

Bicycles. Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York, April 2003

It is entirely possible that these bicycles are still chained to this signpost, more than seven years after the fact.  There is an off chance their owners returned to reclaim them. It is more probable the New York City Department of Highways sent someone over with a bolt cutter, and released these simple transportation machines back into the wild.

Of all my years in New York, I can never understand why people wrap their bikes in Hulk-proof chains and hasp them with Brinks-grade locks, only to abandon them to time and the elements.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Garish: The Cutting Room Floor

U.S. Route 87, Union County, New Mexico, February 2002

According to artist Deidre Adams, this place is still standing, at least as of early 2009.  I wonder how many decades or centuries America's ruins will hold up before ultimately being reclaimed by the earth.  

Garish: The Cutting Room Floor

Neon signs from Earl Abel's fabulous restaurant and coffee shop
Broadway, San Antonio, Texas, October 2002

One of the many things for which I am most thankful, now that Thanksgiving in America is over, is the great diner food at San Antonio's fabulous Earl Abel's.  A fixture of San Antonio dining for almost a century, so were its customers at its old location, at the corner of Broadway and Hildebrand.  

It was the kind of place that had its last facelift sometime in the late 1950s or early 60s, and where you could find comfort food freshly cooked, along with an amazing selection of scrumptious pies and cakes.  As the Welsh say, "lush."

I don't remember them ever having a "wall of fame," but everybody who was somebody stopped by the legendary eatery.  The most famous story about Earl Abel's was when Democrat congressman, Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez ate there.  A fellow diner called him a "communist," and Henry B. apparently wailed on him. True story (I think).  Who knows?  It's fun to tell.

This photograph was taken on Polaroid's legendary (and, also defunct) 669 film, a nighttime double exposure, with my trust Colorpack III camera.  For a tripod, I leaned against one of the convenient telephone poles which lined the sidewalk outside the restaurant.

Sadly, Earl Abel's -- the most beautiful example of Art Deco architecture still surviving in San Antonio -- met the wrecking ball in 2006.  It was bought out by Red McCombs, a car dealer who throws a lot of money around to local charities to make a big show of how magnanimous he is.  Instead of following his policy of benign neglect that he employed previously as owner of the Minnesota Vikings, McCombs razed Earl Abel's to make way for yet another boring high-rise.  Real class.

Fortunately, the Earl Abel's name was bought out by the Elias Brothers restauranteurs and though, architecturally, it's but a shadow of its former self, you can sate your appetite for lush food at its new location at 1201 Austin Highway.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Garish: The Cutting Room Floor

Street signs, television aerials, telephone lines
Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico, c. 1999-2000

This one is too close to my heart and it hurt a lot to excise it from the book.  Yet, it stands alone quite nicely, and takes me back to the smells of burning mesquite and roasting pine nuts.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Libertarian Artist's Credo

Actor Robert Duvall is an outspoken conservative in 
Hollywood, whilst many thumb-sucking conservatives 
are afraid to step out of the closet.  Universally 
recognized as a master of his craft, 
here Duvall hoists his Best Actor Oscar 
for 1983's Tender Mercies

I hate political art. Political art is not for me. I am uncomfortable with it mainly because its foremost practitioners’ politics are way stronger than their art – and their politics suck.

Yet, if you are like I, you know viscerally what it feels like to be a conservative artist, especially if you’re one who takes his art seriously.  It feels lonely as hell.

Especially if you won’t sell out.  It has not been news that the art world is peopled with flaneurs, shockers, and other assorted pretentious dilettantes who pose at being outcasts.  But, you know who the real outcast is: It’s you.

It’s not just that you don’t fit in – you even feel as though you’d have been exiled from the Island of Misfit Toys.  It’s not that you are lacking in a certain social DNA – it’s that you’re completely bereft of it. Kind of like that scene in Taxi Driver when Robert DeNiro, woefully inept at dating prowess, takes an uptight Cybill Shepherd to a porno theater on a first date.

By day, you’re just some guy or girl with a workaday job.  You save up enough loose change and singles to finance what your family regards as your “eccentric hobby.”   The earmarks of your passion are the oil paint you can’t fully scrape out from under your fingernails or the smell of photo fixer you can’t get out of your skin and clothes no matter how often you wash them.

You hide your political beliefs.  You know you’re not a liberal, a progressive, or one of those mindless lemmings who’ve “gone green.”  But, you’re struggling in your art career, and your position in the gallery scene is too precarious to let people know the “real you.”

So, you become a bifurcated self, hoping to avoid a confrontation with the movers and shakers, those oh-so insouciant curators in black turtlenecks, whose opinions you secretly despise whilst simultaneously craving their imprimatur.

You swell with a strange kind of “half” pride when you finally see your work hanging in one of those trendy galleries.  You’re “half” elated when a collector buys one of your pieces.  You convince yourself that you’ve kept your art “pure,” because you’ve kept politics out of your art – while hiding your personal political beliefs from the majority who automatically assume that because you’re an artist that you’re also a leftist.

You make yourself believe that you’ve kept yourself “above it all” by not stooping to the same level as the rest of the art community. Yet, deep down, you also know the very minute your secret political self is unmasked, that you will be blackballed, that so-called “friends” will drop you like a hot potato, and that in the art world you’ll be persona non grata.

You’ve censored who you are in order to stay safe, fit in, and pass by unnoticed.  But your real self looks upon your artist self with nothing but scorn and shame, because deep down, you fear that you have sold out in some more insidious way than by prostituting your art.

You tell yourself it’s not your fault, because you know that the selfsame “tolerant” lefties have stacked the deck against Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians.  They get away with it because of Political Correctness, you tell yourself.

But then, from out of the past comes the stinging rebuke that maybe they are not the only ones culpable for this bad scene.  The admonition that, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing,” echoing in your mind comes not from Edmund Burke, but your own conscience.

Yes, when the intolerant left finds out about your clandestine conservatism, of course your art career will be ruined:  You have already abdicated the sanctity of your conscience by prostrating yourself before people who hate what you stand for.  Why should they suddenly respect you when they already know you’re lacking in spine and stomach?

Or, you can take some schooling from Don Vito Corleone: “You can act like a man!”  I have never had the problems so many conservative artists have with liberals because I have never played this self-defeating charade of hiding my political beliefs.  I don’t bash people over the head with them, but at gallery openings and such I don’t let an insult go by without at least offering an “I disagree with that.”  If you are forthright about who you fully and truly are from the start, then you set the terms by which others deal with you, not they.

Do you see the Tea Party movements the past couple years, filled with people who found the courage to stand up and defend their cherished beliefs and the Constitution of the United States of America?  These are regular guys and gals who finally realized that being consoled by their membership in the “silent majority” was a fool’s bargain – their opposition was only too happy to oblige their silence.

What am I asking of my fellow artists?  To join Liberatchik?  Sure, but Liberatchik is merely a symptom of the problem, not the solution.  True solutions to the ills that plague society seldom rest in collective action.

The solution rests in being true to yourself, and standing up for your beliefs as an artist, as a citizen, as an individual.  What is needed, now more than ever, are individuals whose purpose in life is to fully engage in the pursuit of their happiness, not in wanting to be liked by everybody.

Take a look at Frances Byrd’s and Irene Deely's examples.  These Jeanne d’Arcs of the conservative art movement are out there, standing on their own feet, facing the fire, but succeeding.  They're succeeding because they're true to their art, true to themselves, and their souls are not for sale.

Take an assessment of your own life as an artist, your own soul.  You will be welcome by us at Liberatchik, should you so wish, not because you’re “one of us,” but because you’re true to yourself.

-- Robert L. Jones
Stewartville, Minnesota

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Powerful Photographs

Lorne Michaels at the funeral of Chris Farley
Madison, Wisconsin, December 1997
Photograph Copyright © Associated Press, 1997

I am usually unmoved by photographs.  By that, I mean while I can almost appreciate them the same way I do music, they usually don't resonate with me to the point where an emotion washes over me, like listening to Rachmaninoff, or Led Zeppelin; the appreciation is usually more intellectual than visceral.  

Yet, almost thirteen years after the fact, this photograph by an Associated Press photographer still shakes me to the core.  It is the only photograph I've ever cried over.  It is a straightforward composition of a man at a funeral, standing before a hearse, his face caught in a quiet moment of utter devastation.

Lorne Michaels had already gone to a number of funerals of cast members from Saturday Night Live, most notably John Belushi, writer Michael O'Donoghue, Gilda Radner, early guest Andy Kaufman.  But the overdose death of anything-for-a-laugh fall guy Chris Farley clearly shook Michaels.  Looking at this simple composition, I can fully feel the pain of a father's anguish over the loss of his son.

Less than six months later, Michaels would attend the funeral of hilarious straight-man Phil Hartman, who was murdered in his Encino, California, home by his wife Brynn. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Camera Phone Heresies: Pampered in Luxury

The photographer's feet and cankles taking a respite
DoubleTree Hotel, Minneapolis, October 2010

I am no member of the unwashed hoi polloi, which you often see frequenting such abodes of iniquity as WalMart, Motel 6, and the Tea Party movement.  No, not I.

Rather, I am a member of the great, upwardly mobile mittelbrowkeit, and if you wish to find me basking in the lap of luxury, look no farther than the plush digs at the DoubleTree Suites in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  What luxury!  Why, for $199 per night, I can sit in a tub in which the tiles are definitely a notch or two higher class than you'd find at any such bourgeoise lodgings, like Best Western, or Howard Johnson's.  Talk about culture -- why just look at the culture growing on the grout of these obviously more refined shower tiles. This must be what they mean by the "beyond," as in "Bed, Bath, and ...."

When I jet-set about the Heartland of the great old U.S. of A., I'm proud to be staying at such a well-appointed spot as the DoubleTree.  Because, when I want to be whisked away to a swanky joint like this one, I certainly don't want the mould on the soap dish to be anything less than the finest aged soap dish mould.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A.K.A. Pablo

Actor and comedian Paul Rodriguez
Latino Water Coalition, State Capitol
Sacramento, California, October 2009

Paul Rodriguez is a stand-up guy in more ways than one:  His support of family farmers in the San Joaquin Valley by bringing the issue of the drought forced upon them by the Federal Government is commendable, and spurred the California legislature and Gov. Schwarzenegger to enact measures to deliver badly-needed water to the farms of the Central Valley.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Semper Fidelis

State Highway 80, Gonzales County, Texas, January 2005

As a proud wearer of the 56th Field Artillery patch and Pershing tab on my left shoulder during my term of service in the 1980s with the U.S. Army, I walk with a little swagger.  Anyone who's ever served in an elite unit knows the pride that comes with having earned their way aboard.  

Yet, there are two groups of people I will always stand before humbly:  Combat veterans of any service branch (I have almost twenty years of service divided among the Regular Army, the Texas and Delaware National Guards, and the New York State Guard -- but I've never been sent into a combat theatre of operations) and United States Marines.

You'll know one if you've ever met one, whether in uniform, or out:  Once a Marine, always a Marine.  The toughest, baddest ass sons of bitches ever to make the other poor bastard die for his country.  My godfather, rest his soul, is a Marine.

I say "is," not "was."  Even in heaven, there's no such thing as a "former Marine."

Friday, August 27, 2010

Stairway to Heaven

Roadside memorial, Highway 7, outside Sacaton, Arizona, January 2010

I often photograph these roadside memorials.  At these heretofore gory scenes, where the brutal merging of machine, men, and Mother Nature fatefully collided, seldom are these peaceful areas thereafter disturbed.

I found this quiet but poignant tribute to Ramos outside the small town of Sacaton, on the Gila River Indian Reservation.  

What becomes of these little-known in the e-universe we've created?  I could find no obituary for Basilio Ramos, Jr.  However, I found this entry in a people search form.  He appeared to have a run-in with the law.

And this once-created, never again visited MySpace page.  Listing himself primarily as a weed smoker and a proud parent, I wonder:  Who exactly was the Basilio Ramos who died at this sleepy junction?  The author of the MySpace paean to the Oakland Raiders, or his child?

However and whoever lived his life, and however he died, he is now resting in peace. 

God rest his soul.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Food Fetish

Cafeteria automat conveyor, Passau, Germany, July 2010

I'll admit it: I'm a culinary voyeur.  

This photo is for Ana, whom I was aesthetically channeling as I snapped up this image.

Luxury That Really Is Luxury

View from hotel room, Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Hotel
Phoenix, Arizona, January 2010

Being a photographer means dozens of rolls of photos from your family vacation strewn everywhere in sock drawers, in the cube refrigerator, and shoeboxes.  But, it's always a pleasant surprise when you get your snapshots back from Walgreen's.

One such shot was taken on our family vacation to Phoenix last January, which was marred by the worst torrential rain (which came down as mud) and flooding Arizona had seen in twenty years.

But, for one day, the clouds went elsewhere and we had a beautiful day to go out and about.  To boot, I snapped this pic from our balcony.  In all my days, I've never been afforded a greater view from my hotel room window than this.  Not even in Iceland.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Photo guru Klaus Ditté, Passau, Germany, July 2010

If Akira Kurosawa were alive and not dead; were German and not Japanese; and were a photographer and not a director....

....he'd be this man.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

La Boqueria, Part IX

Puppet. La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain, July 2010

At night, this seemingly benign creature awakes and prowls the floors of La Boqueria, marshaling an army of insects and vermin which will soon take over the world!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

La Boqueria, Part VIII: Jamon Iberico

Jamon Iberico. La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain, July 2010

I am not a fan of Tapas bars, with their minimalist portions.  The custom of grazing on small portions throughout the day is tedious and absurd -- after your third Tapas "meal," you begin to get that Bill Murray/Groundhog Day deja vu feeling.  I prefer the Italian tradition of a big lunch of pasta and a midday rest until three.

That said, as I was forced to eat at these Tapas places during meetings with friends in Spain, I did reacquaint myself with a delicacy known as jamon Iberico. Quite literally, Spanish ham.  It's shaved razor-thin and often served on bread, or alone on a plate, and is the most heavenly pork confection my taste buds have ever experienced.  Think of it as Canadian bacon crossed with prosciutto.  I'm in pig heaven!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

La Boqueria, Part VII: Peppers

Peppers. La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain, July 2010

Looks like a San Antonio doorway around Christmastime!

La Boqueria, Part VI: Smooth Up In Ya

Fruit smoothies. La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain, July 2010

This lovely lady implores you, "Have a smoothie!"


Monday, August 9, 2010

Frutos del Mar: La Boqueria V

Whitings at fish market. La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain, July 2010

Monkfish tails. La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain, July 2010

I have never been a seafood eater.  With the exception of tuna salad, I don't eat fish.  Forget about shellfish -- I've no use for bottom-feeders.

Yet, some of my fondest memories as a boy were going to Lexington Market, Baltimore's renowned open food market.  There is no market in the world that can rival Lexington Market for a tour of smells:  From the dogs and sausages grilling at Pollock Johnny's, to the roasted Brazilian nuts, the cotton candy, and my favorite smell -- the most distinctly Baltimorean of them all -- crabcakes frying.

And when it came to sights, I would marvel at the fish.  The lobster tank, the crab salads, the trout, and German pickled herring from Chesapeake Bay..... You gotta go there sometime and see it for yourself.

My time at La Boqueria brought me back to all that, in its own way.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

La Boqueria, Part IV

Watermelons, peppers. La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain, July 2010

It's hard to believe, but these ultra-fresh looking watermelons are now either human byproducts floating in Barcelona's sewers, or they went unconsumed, and are rotting in some compost pile.  But, thanks to this Agfa film I've preserved in my freezer for seven years, their fuscia, lime, and salmon hues will be fresh for eternity.  

Saturday, August 7, 2010

La Boqueria, Part III

Egg vendor, La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain, July 2010

The series of photographs I took at La Boqueria were also very technically interesting to me:  I exposed my first rolls of Kodak Ektar 100 there, but I also shot a number of rolls of Agfa's highly-saturated Ultra 100, a now-defunct stalwart of mine which has been in the freezer for seven years.  Although I had to do a little more tweaking in Photoshop, I got very similar results with the color-curves and saturation, although the Agfa was significantly grainier.  

I am so glad Kodak did the right thing for once, and brought back a film they killed in the mid-1990s.  Still, I purchased many bricks of the Ektar in 35mm and 120, because I'm not counting on Kodak to continue doing what's right.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Colorful Czech Republic

Advertisement detail. Federal Highway 39, Horní Planá, Czech Republic, July 2010

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the formerly greywashed Czechoslovakians went wild with all manner of colorful paints to enliven their surroundings.  If I hadn't known otherwise, I would have thought I was in Mexico during this delightful sojourn into territory once verboten to NATO soldiers.

Tire tower, Federal Highway 39, Cerná v Posumaví, Czech Republic, July 2010

Political advertisement, Federal Highway 39, Želnava, Czech Republic, July 2010

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Mojo Jojo?

Graffiti and ventilation grate, Salamanca, Spain, July 2010

I don't know if the vandal who aimed his can of Krylon on this public wall meant to do it, but it looks like he made a portrait of the Powerpuff Girls' nemesis wielding a bolt of lightning.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The All-Seeing Eyes

Optometrist's sign, Salamanca, Spain, July 2010

In my invisible dreams
When no one is watching
I'd make the whole world blind,
And I'd be free.

-- Dio, "The Eyes," 2004

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Taking Credit For Other Photographers' Work

Detail of advertising mural, Salamanca, Spain, July 2010

In the fine arts world, all an aspiring photographer need do is cleverly crop someone else's work, and claim it as his own.  As in this case, for instance.

It's done all the time.   ;)

Monday, August 2, 2010

On a Lighter Note...

I "Mad Men'd" myself at American Movie Classics.  Not a very accurate likeness, but it captures the spirit of the thing.  Mad Men, for the uninitiated, is a smoke-filled paean to the guys and dolls of Madison Avenue, set in the mid-1960s.  It is also the only show I know that heterosexual men watch to get tips on how to dress for success.

Most importantly, you'll see the lovely and curvaceous Joan Holloway has her eye on me.  I can dream, can't I?

Christina Hendricks stars as the duplicitous Joan Holloway in Mad Men

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Class Act in Salamanca

Accordion player, Salamanca, Spain, July 2010

To get me to toss a 5 Euro note in your instrument case, all you have to do is play the love theme from Il Padrino. Con affetuoso, of course!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Salamanca, Sunday Morning Coming Down

Pedestrian and ashcans, Salamanca, Spain, July 2010

Salamanca is Spain's most beautiful city and one of its most historically significant.  A history of the Middle Ages would be incomplete without its many battles and sieges.  More importantly, Salamanca is noted for its gorgeous Renaissance and Baroque architecture, and is one of the crown jewels of the Roman Catholic Church.

Yet, in this picture postcard city is fast becoming deserted as every third shop and building has been left empty, put up sale or rent, thanks to Spain's faltering economy.  As I found Salamanca early one Sunday morning, it seemed a brightly-lit ghost town, besieged by silence and the vandal's can of spray paint.

Light switch and graffiti, Salamanca, Spain, July 2010

Shoes for sale, Salamanca, Spain, July 2010

Cracked insulator, lamp fixture, and buildings
Salamanca, Spain, July 2010

The city, as seen through the curtain of a coffee bar
Salamanca, Spain, July 2010

Respite from the heat
Salamanca, Spain, July 2010

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

La Boqueria, Part II

Bustle of the fruit market
La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain, July 2010

I returned twice to La Boqueria, and exposed about five rolls of the highly-saturated C-41 color films Agfa Ultra 100 and Kodak Ektar 100 to capture the brilliance of the intense hues of the market.  Shooting with my Nikkor f/1.4 lens achieved the exact opposite of deep focus:  With its shallow depth of field, I could concentrate on composing with colors, rather than any particular objects.

The results were almost impressionist compositions that breathed with the fire of surrealistic color.  These prints are out of a Technicolor dream.  Fitting for their subjects' location.

Detail of grapes, La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain, July 2010

American tourists at watermelon stand
La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain, July 2010

Greengrocer and customer
La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain, July 2010

Butcher and customer
La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain, July 2010

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Rubber Chicken Dinner

Rubber Chickens
Busker's Stall, Ramblas, Barcelona, Spain, July 2010

One of the biggest tourist draws on the Ramblas -- Barcelona's pedestrian walkway which intersects the Catalan city -- is La Boqueria, the great fruit market.

The stall owners here all have artistic flair, a vivacious sense of color (heightened by the use of sodium vapor lamps) and a knack for arranging their wares in patterns which appeal to the graphically sensible.

Altogether, a visual feast for the eyes and heaven for the nose and mouth.

Produce, La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain, July 2010

Fruit salad arrangement, La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain, July 2010