Monday, December 11, 2017

The Problem with Posting Street Photographs


As some may remember, I posted at the beginning of the year my intent to publish one street photograph each day.  I kept with that resolution well into November but then stopped and removed many of my posts.

The problem is that photographs, when posted by themselves, contain no information that will allow search engines to find them and thereby bring viewers to this blog.  As a result, I was averaging only a few views each day, not enough to make the effort worthwhile.

I'll be considering over the next few weeks where best to take this blog since I certainly don't want to discontinue it.  Instead, I want to find a subject that will attract readers and make their visit here more rewarding.  In the meantime, I'll probably be posting random photos I've taken in Central Park and elsewhere in the city.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Blue Hours



Yesterday I published my fourth novel as an ebook at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  I'm very excited about it.  I honestly think this is my best work yet.

A tribute to Cornell Woolrich, who more or less invented the genre, the book is an attempt to explore the very meaning of noir.  It's a trip into darkness. 

The Blue Hours is set in New York City in 1970, long before gentrification, when the town was still gritty and crime ridden.  It tells of a violent junkie, just out of jail, who wakes one morning in an East Village tenement to find himself holding a smoking gun with only a corpse to keep him company.  With the police closing in, he teams up with a sexy lap dancer to find the one witness who can tell him what really happened.  It's the stuff of pulp novels.

I shot the cover photo on infrared film and printed it in a wet darkroom.  I did the cover design in Photoshop.


Friday, December 1, 2017

Photo Book Review: The History of Fashion Photography

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One volume I've had lying about literally for decades and have finally found time to read is The History of Fashion Photography by Nancy Hall-Duncan.  The book was written to accompany an exhibit at the George Eastman House, where the author was then working as an assistant curator, that was held in 1977 and that attempted to provide a comprehensive overview of its subject up to that date.

The history proceeds chronologically from the industry's beginnings when the available technology prohibited any reproduction at all of photos, through the earliest era of fashion magazines when Baron Adolph de Meyer and Edward Steichen (who had died only four years before this book was written) were employed one after the other by Condé Nast, and from there decade by decade to the time of the work's publication.  Along the way, each new movement and change in taste is carefully described and analyzed.  For me, the most interesting chapters are those dealing with Pictorialism and Surrealism.

In general, Ms. Hall-Duncan's treatment is insightful and even-handed without ever becoming pedantic.  Some photographers she mentions, such as Bob Richardson, have themselves fallen out of fashion but most have stood the test of time very well.   An entire chapter is devoted to the work of Richard Avedon and Irving Penn.  The selection of photos from the original exhibit is excellent and makes this one of the best anthologies of fashion photography available.

What truly makes the book fascinating to read now is its perspective - that of the late 1970's. This, of course, was still the era when print editions of fashion magazines such as Vogue reigned supreme.  There's no intimation at all of the upheaval that the introduction of digital cameras and the internet would bring to the fields of editorial and advertising photography. It was an analog world where photos were shot on film and then converted into halftone reproductions using methods that would now be considered primitive.  The leading practitioners of fashion photography at the time of publication were Helmut NewtonGuy Bourdin and Deborah Turbeville, though icons such as Cecil Beaton were still alive and are described in the present tense.

Unfortunately, this is a poorly designed book.  Although the jacket states that the Alpine edition is produced from the "very same plates" as the first edition (Abrams), there is a great deal left to be desired.  The crowded text is in a sans serif font that is difficult to read and that is so far to the edge that it falls into the volume's gutter.  Footnotes are placed awkwardly on the opposite side of the page where the text would normally be shown.  More importantly, the photographic reproductions themselves are not of first rate quality.  Interestingly, this seems more a problem with the black & white photos than with the color.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

NYC Pride Parade - June 25, 2017


This individual was acting as emcee, whether officially or unofficially I don't know.


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

NYC Pride Parade - June 25, 2017


Just as at the anti-Trump rallies held earlier in the year, protest was very much on the minds of those attending New York City's 2017 Pride Parade.  Along with many other groups, the LGBTQ community has seen its hard won rights endangered by the tactics of the current Republican administration whose conservative agenda unfairly discriminates against those Americans who are not heterosexual white Christians in posssession of large incomes.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Photo Book Review: Gertrude Käsebier: The Photographer and Her Photographs

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It's difficult to believe now, so completely has she been forgotten,  that at the turn of the twentieth century Gertrude Käsebier was one of America's most successful and best known photographers.  So important did Stieglitz consider her work that he dedicated the first issue of Camera Work to displaying her photographs rather than those of his disciple Steichen.

Käsebier was lucky enough to have been born into a family of moderate wealth and then married, however unhappily, to a successful businessman.  As a result, she did not have to worry about earning enough money to pay the rent.  In fact, Käsebier was already age 36 and her children nearly grown when she first took up the study of photography.  While it's true that her social standing enabled her to secure many wealthy clients for her lucrative portrait business, Käsebier was a strong minded business woman who worked hard to make herself a success.  She also had enough foresight to ally herself with Stieglitz when he first began to seriously promote photography as an art form and she thus became a charter member of the Photo Secession.

If Käsebier is passed over today, it's most likely because so much of her oeuvre was given over to the celebration of motherhood and children.  Ironically, those photographs that first established her reputation, such as Blessed Art Thou and The Manger (both from 1899), are the same that now cause her to be rejected on the grounds that her work is too cloyingly sentimental to be worthy of serious consideration.  Actually, shortly after it was created, a print of The Manger sold for $100, at the time the highest price ever paid for a photographic work.  In contrast, the photograph for which Käsebier is best remembered today is her sensual portrait of Evelyn Nesbit, reproduced on this book's cover, whose cocaine addled husband gained notoriety when on the rooftop of Madison Square Garden he sensationally murdered the showgirl's former lover, the playboy architect Stanford White, who was also Käsebier's friend and patron.

The other reason Käsebier is given so little attention today is that her photographic style was unabashedly "pictorialist."  This term has been given a pejorative connotation since at least the 1930's when Ansel Adams and other members of the f64 Group began to relentlessly promote "straight" photography at the expense of all other forms of photographic representation.  Their closed minded insistence on their sharp and straightforward style as the only viable approach to the medium did incalculable harm to mid-twentieth century photography.  Käsebier was, on the other hand, the pictorialist photographer par excellence.  She had no hesitation at all in painting in backgrounds or details on her prints or in using alternative printing methods such as platinum and gum bichromate.  Although some pictorialists no doubt did go too far in their image manipulations, by and large they created works of incredible beauty that were far more imaginative than the literal, matter-of-fact reproductions of reality favored by the f64 Group.

Gertrude Käsebier: The Photographer and Her Photographs, is a highly sympathetic biography written by Barbara L. Michaels.  It is a short work, really not more than an extended essay, that would have benefited greatly from more detail regarding Käsebier's associations with some of the greatest artists of her time.  These included not only Stieglitz and Steichen, but also such seminal photographers as Alvin Langdon Coburn (who once worked as Käsebier's assistant), F. Holland DayClarence White and Baron de Meyer as well as leading painters and sculptors in both Europe and America, most notably Auguste Rodin whom Käsebier photographed extensively at his home near Paris.  The book, published by Abrams, is handsomely designed and filled with excellent reproductions of Käsebier's black & white photographs, including all her most famous works as well as many with which I had previously been unfamiliar.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Easter Parade - April 16, 2017


This is the last of the 2017 Easter Parade photos.  I had a lot of fun taking them and was surprised I got so many interesting photographs in so short a time.  There were a lot of wild outfits on display but what interested me most was capturing the expressions of the parade-goers themselves.  It was fascinating to see the wide assortment of New Yorkers who came out to enjoy the great weather and show off their finery.