Friday, April 20, 2018

Faces at the 2018 Easter Parade (2 of 4)

For the most part, I'm posting photos in the same order in which I shot them.

All photos were shot on a Lumix GH4 with a 14-140 lens (equivalent to 28-280). For the black & white conversions I used Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Dark Veil: Chapter Fourteen

Cecil Curwin’s corner office on Beaver Street was spacious and luxuriously furnished.  Placed against the solid mahogany paneling was a glass display case filled with plaques and trophies; beside it were ebony bookcases lined with leather bound volumes too neatly arranged ever to have been opened let alone read.  On the desk was a photo of Curwin shaking hands with the mayor at some charity fundraiser.  Quinn took all this in from the heavily upholstered chair to which he’d been directed.  
Curwin himself was younger than Quinn had expected.  A clean shaven Afro-American in his mid-thirties, he had the height and build of an NFL linebacker.  Still, he moved gracefully enough as he rose from his enormous desk and crossed the room to shake hands.  He was dressed in a freshly pressed Valentino suit and had had his hair styled in an elegant cut that must have cost several times more than Quinn’s monthly rent.
“It was good of you to come here on such short notice,” said Curwin.  His manner was smooth.  “After your visit to my wife yesterday, I thought it imperative that we talk.”   
Quinn stood to return the handshake.  “I apologize if I disturbed your wife.  Behan and I were close, and I’d hoped she could tell me something that would help.”
“Help in what way?” Curwin inquired.
“Help me find out who killed him.”
“To tell the truth, my wife wasn’t at all upset by your visit, even though she may have found your attire at the time a bit … unorthodox.”  Curwin paused long enough to stare curiously at the dark herringbone suit Quinn was now wearing.  “Actually, she told me you had been very courteous to her.  But surely you must have realized, even before intruding into my home, that Penelope hadn’t seen this Behan in quite some time and so couldn’t possibly have had any information that would assist you in your quest for justice.”
“Quest for justice.”  Quinn rolled the phrase on the tip of his tongue.  “That’s a great expression.  I like it.  As for the hoodie I was wearing yesterday, I’m sorry if it freaked out your wife.  I hope she’s recovered from the shock.”
“I admit I’m relieved you decided to dress more properly for our appointment today.  This is a place of business and appropriate attire is required even of guests.”
“Yes, well the hoodie hadn’t come back yet from the cleaners and I certainly didn’t want to be late, so I threw on the first thing that came to hand.”
Curwin sat down at his desk but continued to stare at Quinn’s outfit.  “That suit is very becoming on you.  I used to own one very much in that same style as a matter of fact.  The tie looks familiar as well.  Your tailor isn’t Wimple & Connors by any chance, is it?”
“Sorry, but I don’t think I ever heard of those guys.  I picked up these threads on sale at Willie’s Jeans on Eighth Avenue.  That’s where I buy all my fine clothes.”
Curwin gave a weak smile.  “You can have your little joke if you like.  What’s important is that you knew enough to display correct etiquette when you arrived here.”
“Tell me.  If you had a potential client with millions to invest in your firm, would you really send him away if you weren’t happy with the clothes he had on his back?”
The smile faded from Curwin’s lips.  “Those with substantial funds to invest didn’t earn their money and become as successful as they are by sneering at society’s standards.”
“Wasn’t it Conrad who said a success is a man too boring to be anything else?”
Curwin remained unfazed.  “I doubt very much that Conrad wore a hoodie.”
“I wouldn’t think you’d worry so much what people wear when we’re only a few blocks from Zucotti Park where the Occupy Wall Street protestors camped out not too long ago.  You could have seen all the jeans and hoodies you wanted then.”
“That rabble?”  Curwin grew suddenly excited and began to pace rapidly about the room.  “They were a dangerous crowd, criminals keeping honest workers from their jobs.  If they hadn’t been evicted from the park, it would only have been a matter of time until they’d attacked some upright Wall Street businessman out of pure spite and jealousy.  And you’re right about their clothes – those protestors looked and smelled worse than the homeless.”
“Isn’t the term ‘upright Wall Street businessman’ an oxymoron to begin with?  As for the ‘rabble,’ how can they afford to buy expensive suits when they’re out of work?  Of course, I suppose you’re one of those who believe it’s their own fault they can’t find a job.”
“There’s plenty of opportunity in this city.” Curwin moved to a window from which he could see much of lower Manhattan.  “The Burger King on the corner of Church and Liberty has a ‘Help Wanted’ sign posted.  I pass it every day.  If these people truly desired to make themselves useful, they’d take a job there instead of freeloading and begging.”
“My, my,” said Quinn.  “Was it at Burger King that you and your Wall Street friends got your start?  I’d no idea.”
Curwin scowled angrily.  “You know perfectly well what I’m trying to say.”
“All the 99% want is to earn enough money to pay the rent and put food on the table.  That doesn’t seem so unreasonable a demand to me.”
“If you want to side with them, go ahead.  I didn’t ask you here to discuss politics.”
“Exactly why did you invite me here?” Quinn asked.  “I certainly don’t want to keep you from your own hard work.  The voice message you left said you had something important to discuss, but so far you haven’t done anything but strut about like a stuffed shirt and look down on me.  I didn’t ride the subway all the way to Bowling Green for that.”
“Then let me come straight to the point.”  Curwin placed his hands on the desktop.  “You are not to attempt to contact my wife again.  Is that clear enough for you?”
“If your wife really has nothing to tell me, then why would I want to see her again?  I only went to your home yesterday because I thought Penelope might remember something from the time she and Behan knew one another that would point to a reason for his murder.  There had to be some motive, even if the police haven’t yet been able to find it.”
“I’m sure the police are capable of doing their job without any assistance from you.”
“That’s exactly what they tell me.”  Quinn glanced over his shoulder at the display case behind him.  “You have a lot of trophies.  What did you get them for?”
“Marksmanship.  I’m an excellent shot.  In my senior year at Yale, I nearly qualified for the Olympics.”  Curwin gave Quinn a crooked smile.  “But before you ask me if I’m the one who killed your friend, I can assure you I’ve never shot anyone.”
“Was Behan shot to death?  How did you happen to know that?”
“I didn’t.  But it’s common knowledge most murders in this city are committed with handguns.  Just read the mayor’s latest statement on the importance of gun control.”
“I’m sure permits are readily available to the wealthy,” Quinn observed.
 “If you have a problem with that, I suggest you talk to the police commissioner.”
“I wonder if Behan had time after he’d been shot to realize he was about to die.”
“You’d have to ask him.”
“That’s funny,” said Quinn.  “You’ve got jokes.  It really must have rankled that your wife would have wanted to associate with someone as low class as Behan in the first place.”
“I never actually met the man.  I didn’t have to.  From what Penelope told me about him – and no, she never bothered to keep her association with him a secret from me – his entire life was one long failure.  To the best of my knowledge, he never accomplished anything meaningful.  If he’s dead and gone, I can’t believe it’s any great loss to the world.”
Quinn controlled himself with difficulty.  “Behan might never have made a lot of money or been a big businessman, but he took some wonderful photos.  I don’t think someone who creates art and brings beauty into the world can so easily be written off as a failure.”
“Perhaps not from your perspective.  My own standards are quite different.”
“That’s enough about Behan.”  Quinn clenched his teeth.  “Now how about dropping the act and telling me about your partnership with Ito?  I went to visit him, you know.  He didn’t say anything about you, but I understand that you’re a big fan of his and have dumped a lot of cash into his film company.  I heard you even put together a consortium of investors from among your friends to give him all the financing he needs.  It all sounds pretty cozy to me.  I’m just wondering what you get back for your money.”
“I don’t have to detail my business dealings to anyone.  But there’s no mystery.  Ito’s films make money, both here and abroad.  A lot of money.  That’s why I’m backing him.”
“I bet you big spenders get special treatment.  Does Ito ever send you over any actresses to fuck?  Sort of as a way of saying ‘thanks for all your help.’”
 “Do you know how low you are to even suggest such a thing?” Curwin raged.  
“Perhaps.  But that doesn’t mean it’s not true, does it?”  Quinn left Curwin no time to answer.  “Why did Ito have the photos Behan took of your wife?  Is he going to star her in the next sick piece of garbage he puts out, the same one you’re backing so generously?  Is that part of your deal with Ito, to hand over your wife to be raped on film?”
Curwin’s eyes went wide.  “Are you completely insane?  I would never even consider allowing Penelope to appear in one of Ito’s films.  Do you realize what a scandal there would be if she were seen and recognized?  Do you how greatly it would hurt my career?”
“So which is it you care about more – your wife or your career?  Did you ever really love Penelope to begin with, or was she just some exotic ornament for you to wear on your arm?  To guys like you, having a beautiful wife is like driving an expensive sports car.  They both help give you the right image.”
Curwin couldn’t believe what he was hearing.   “How dare you insult me this way?”
“Or maybe you’ve got a thing for porn stars,” Quinn suggested.  “Do you get turned on in bed by those hookers Ito has under contract?  Is that the real reason you’re so interested in his sleaze fests?”
“That’s enough.”  Curwin pounded the top of his desk.  “Get out.  Right now.”
“I’ll be out of here in a minute.  I know what packed schedules you Wall Street financiers must have.  I wouldn’t want to keep you from whoring for another dollar. Maybe we can meet again, though, and continue our discussion somewhere more private.”
“I only brought you here to tell you to stay away from my wife.”  Curwin stood and pointed to the door.  “I have nothing else to say to you.”
 “Well, thanks for sending me away like I was the hired help.”  Quinn too stood up.  “But before I go, here’s a warning for you.  If you ever talk to me like that again or even look at me sideways, I’ll kick your ass from here to Battery and back again.  That would teach you some badly needed manners.  You wouldn’t be so smug afterwards.  Your suit would get wrinkled and your hair would be all mussed up.  Whatever would you do then?”
“I don’t have to listen to threats from an ass like you.”  The veins stood out on Curwin’s forehead.  “You’d better leave now before I call building security.”
“You won’t do that.  You just got done telling me how you don’t want any scandal rocking your financial wizard image.  But don’t worry.  I’m happy enough to leave on my own.  After having met with you, dealing with a mugger on the subway would be a step up.”
As Quinn left Curwin’s office, he turned to take one last look back.  He saw Curwin leaning over his desk with his fists planted firmly on top.  The financier was breathing heavily and staring blankly ahead.   

Quinn continued on his way to the elevator.  As he approached it, a goggle eyed secretary who must have heard every word that had been spoken stepped back against the wall and stared at Quinn as though uncertain whether to scream or to call the police.  In the end, she did neither.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Another Film Discontinued

Fujifilm recently announced it will discontinue its Neopan 100 Acros black & white film in October 2018.  This is a fine grain (a property of its low ISO) film that's long been popular among portrait photographers.

The film is already shown as discontinued at B&H while last week it was still in stock and selling for $6.49 per roll. 

Friday, April 13, 2018

Faces at the 2018 Easter Parade (1 of 4)

Parades always are great opportunities to practice street portraiture.  Everyone is smiling and happy to have their photograph taken.

All photos were shot on a Lumix GH4 with a 14-140 lens (equivalent to 28-280).  For the black & white conversions I used Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.

I'll be posting more photos from the parade on successive Fridays.  I hope you enjoy seeing them as much as I enjoyed taking them.


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Dark Veil: Chapter Thirteen

As he returned home from the East Side, Quinn once again ran into his neighbor Mayla on the stairwell.  “How are you doing these days?” she asked.  “All settled in?”
“Yes, there really wasn’t much moving to do – I’m wearing everything I own – and I’ve even managed to find myself a new roommate.  Her name’s Violeta.  She’s the one who really keeps the apartment in order.  You’ll have to stop by sometime to meet her.”
“I’d love to.  If you’re not too busy, I could drop by this evening.  I’ll bring some wine as a housewarming present.”  Mayla laughed.  “Or would you rather smoke weed?”
Quinn smiled at the thought.  “Why not bring both if you’ve got them to spare.”
“I certainly do.  My Dominican friends from Inwood are always laying Purple Haze and Sour Diesel on me.  A couple of joints of that shit should keep us high all night.”  Then Mayla had second thoughts.  “But what about your roommate Violeta?  I don’t want to sit there smoking and drinking if it’s going to disturb her.” 
“Don’t worry,” Quinn reassured her.  “I don’t know about weed, but Violeta enjoys a drink as much as we do.  Stop by around ten o’clock if that’s good for you.”

After they’d finished eating, Quinn and Violeta sat together in the living room later that same evening.  He had already told her that he had invited Mayla to join them. 
“Sure,” Violeta had replied.  “I always love to drink fine wine and smoke good grass.  But don’t worry that I’ll cramp your style – I’ll excuse myself if you two want to be alone.”
“There’s nothing to worry about there.  Mayla and I are just neighbors, nothing more than that.  I’m surprised you haven’t run into her before this.  She’s on the floor below.”
Quinn then told Violeta about his meeting with Penelope, but he refrained from mentioning the kiss he had given her.
“So, in the end, she got the rich husband she’d been looking for all along.  I guess we should be happy for her.”  That was Violeta’s only comment on Quinn’s story.
“Yes, I wonder where she met her husband.  I forgot to ask.”
“Probably online.  Everyone looks for matches on dating sites these days.  She was lucky he turned out to be what he said he was, and not some psycho pretender.  It’s rare these days to find someone, online or off, who tells the truth about himself.”
“Just because a guy’s rich doesn’t mean he’s not a psycho,” Quinn pointed out.
“If he’s rich, most women in this city wouldn’t care how psycho he is.”
Quinn suddenly changed the subject.  “Violeta, is it really so wrong for a man to be attracted to a married woman?”
Violeta shot Quinn a curious look.
“What is it?”  Quinn kept his expression blank.  “I was only asking a question.”
“Yes, maybe, but why that particular question?  And right after you finish telling me how gorgeous this Penelope is.  You have to admit it’s pretty strange timing on your part.”
Quinn looked away.  “I don’t see what that has to do with anything.”
Violeta sat up straight.  “Quinn, you’re not thinking of getting involved with that woman, are you?  She was nothing but bad news for Behan.”
“I doubt she’s the one who killed him.”
“You realize that’s not much of a recommendation, don’t you?”
“In the end, it doesn’t make any difference how I feel about Penelope, does it?  People like me and Behan don’t really exist for her.  We’re just there to be used if needed.”
“Don’t let her get to you the way she got to Behan,” Violeta warned.
“There’s no need to worry.  She’s married to money now, and you can bet your sweet life she’s not going to do anything that would rock the boat.  She’s too smart for that.”
Violeta wasn’t taken in.  “Will you see her again?” she asked.
“What for?”  Quinn tried to shrug off the question.  “Penelope didn’t have anything important to tell me about Behan when I saw her today.  Nothing that would help me find his killer anyway.  No, there’s no real reason for the two of us to meet again.”
“You can do what you like, but I think it would be better if you didn’t.”
“There’s one problem though,” Quinn mentioned.
“What’s that?”
“I had a message waiting on the answering machine when I got back home today.  It was from her husband.  He wanted to know if I could meet him at his office tomorrow.  Penelope must have called him as soon as I’d left and told him I’d been to see her.”
“Uh, oh.  Are you going?”
The question took Quinn by surprise.  “Why on earth wouldn’t I?”
Violeta poured herself a large shot of cacha├ža.  “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

Mayla rang the bell at eleven, an hour later than had been arranged.  “I couldn’t find any wine, but I brought some wonderful weed.  It’s hydroponic and really packs a hit.”
For a few hours, the three friends sat crosslegged on the floor rolling one joint after another and pulling six packs of beer from the refrigerator.  Mayla talked about famous actors she’d met on set, Violeta about her life as a model and Quinn about his travel assignments during those times his sister had been well enough for him to leave San Francisco.
By two o’clock, Violeta was ready to call it a night and get some sleep.  “I hate to be a drag on the fun,” she announced, “but I’ve got a location shoot scheduled for 7 a.m.  Photographers don’t care much for models with big bags under their eyes.”
“They won’t complain when the model’s as attractive as you,” Quinn said.
After Violeta had left, Quinn and Mayla continued talking and drinking through the early morning hours.  They smoked another full gram of weed and then popped open a bottle of French champagne Quinn had found at the bottom of Behan’s refrigerator. 
“If I know my father, he’d probably held onto this for years.  What a total romantic the guy was.  He’d get the best, like this Roederer, and then he’d put it away while waiting for the perfect evening to arrive when he could be alone with a pretty woman.”
“What’s wrong with that?” Mayla asked.  She lit up a cigarette.
 “Nothing, I guess, depending on how long he had to wait.”
They were both silent for a moment. 
“What about you Quinn?  Are you with anyone right now?”
“I met someone just today, but as luck would have it she turned out to be married.  And to a multimillionaire no less.  I don’t expect anything will happen there.”
“Ha.  Marriage doesn’t stand in the way of many men, let me tell you.  I have a ton of girlfriends who’ll testify to that.”
“You should be married yourself, Mayla.  You’re a beautiful young woman.  All the guys must be after you.”
“You’re sweet, Quinn. And thanks for calling me ‘young,’ but I bet the woman you were so attracted to has a lot less years on her than I do.”
“Hey, even if she is a little younger, it can’t be by much.”
“Well, if you do run into Ms. Millions again, you might want to consider wearing different clothes.  No offense, but you’re not exactly dressed to impress.”
“She’ll have to take me as I am.  Even if I were willing to torture myself by putting on a suit, I don’t have the bucks to go out buying any fancy clothes.”
“Why would you have to buy anything?  You’re about the same size as Behan – I’m guessing a 52 long – and his closets are stuffed full with high priced clothes.  He showed them to me once.  There’s an incredible selection there.  Some of the suits may be a little out of date, but quality never really goes out of style.  And the Italian silk ties are classic.”
“You should be doing commercials on late night TV.”
“I wish I was,” Mayla sighed.  She took a deep drag on her cigarette.  “I’ve known actors who’ve retired on the money they made from residuals.”
“But where did Behan get such fine clothes?  The man was always dead broke.”
“That I couldn’t tell you,” said Mayla.  “I often wondered about it myself.”
Quinn walked to a closet and opened it.  There were a line of suits facing him, each still in its cellophane wrapper from the dry cleaner.  “What would you suggest?” he asked.
Mayla stood up and moved beside him.  “That black Versace suit is really sharp.  It would give you a continental flair. ”
“Bullshit.  But I do like the color black all right.”
Wear it with a white shirt and you can go anywhere.  I can see you and your mystery woman having dinner at 11 Madison.  Just make sure she’s the one who picks up the tab.”
“Not if I can find a black dress shirt somewhere in here.  As far as I’m concerned, that would go a lot better with this suit.  If I were to wear a white shirt, I’d probably get busted for impersonating a stock broker.  Or else be mistaken for an undertaker.”
Mayla couldn’t control her laughter.  “Have it your way.  Now let’s look for a tie.”
For the next half hour, the two rifled through Behan’s closets and drawers.  They pulled out every expensive piece of clothing they could find until at last Quinn had put together a full wardrobe.  Every so often, at Mayla’s urging, Quinn would try on a jacket or sweater to make certain it fit.
“You’re a really handsome guy, Quinn.  When we get done with this you’re going to look like a millionaire yourself in those clothes.”
“Is that really such a good idea?” asked Quinn.  “When I was talking to Viktor the other day, he told me the best way to get targeted in the city was to put on a suit.  And he was right.  Once I start wearing expensive threads, I’ll be putting myself in the crosshairs of every hustler on the street.  I might as well flash a Rolex on the subway and be done with it.”
“Tsk, tsk.  You’re never going to become a playboy with that attitude.”
“Sorry. Mayla.  I don’t mean to be ungrateful.”  Quinn regarded her fondly.   “You know I really appreciate all the help you’re giving me.”
It was almost 4 a.m. when Mayla finally stood up and shook out her long red hair.  “I’ve got a call back at nine tomorrow morning.  I better get a few hours’ sleep before I go, or I’ll look like a total hag.”  She stubbed out her cigarette and gave Quinn a kiss on the cheek.  “When I see you tomorrow on the stairs, I expect you to look like someone new.”

Quinn shook his head.  “You can forget that.  I’m too old to turn into someone else.”

Monday, April 9, 2018

Virtual Photography Models

According to an intriguing article in the New York Post, the latest supermodel to appear on the fashion scene is actually nonexistent.  As the story goes, the model named Shudu who recently attained internet fame wearing a celebrity brand of lipstick is actually a CGI created by British photographer Cameron-James Wilson.  After having kept Shudu's true identity a secret for months, Wilson recently revealed the truth.

As the article points out, Shudu is only one - if arguably the most realistic - of many virtual models to appear on social media.  This may be part of a new trend to replace living models with virtual counterparts.  After all, there are already music icons in Japan who are entirely computer generated.

Despite the huge advances that have been made in CGI that makes rendering so realistic an image possible, I'm still not sure why photographers would choose to go with a virtual model rather than a real one.  Even with all the high tech available, it still must be extremely time consuming and labor intensive to create a digital model when there are so many beautiful living models to choose from.   Even after having taken into account the time needed for hair and makeup and that required for post-processing, it sill seems considerably easier to pick up a camera and photograph a living model.  The only advantage to a CGI model that I can think of is that it affords the photographer - and the art director behind him - total control.  But one wonders if such control would eventually remove all the spontaneity from images and render them contrived and lifeless.  Or, on the other hand, has CGI become so sophisticated that there is no longer any means by which to distinguish the real from the virtual?

Friday, April 6, 2018

A Winged Figure in Central Park

I shot this gentleman almost exactly a year ago near Shakespeare Garden in Central Park.  He was promoting a children's book and was happy to have his photo taken.