*Fremont District - Las Vegas, NV

Fremont District - Las Vegas - 2010
We went to Vegas again this last weekend.  These are some photos from a trip there last summer.  This city is really growing on me.  It isn't the glamor or the gambling.  It is something about seeing so many itches being scratched.

The rest of the stuff below is from my old blog. 

We went to Las Vegas last summer to celebrate our anniversary.  Even though we stayed in the faux New York New York, we spent much of the time on the old side of the Strip, especially on Fremont Street.  I really like the old side of Vegas and saddened a bit that they renovated a big chunk of it into a big outdoor mall.  I guess it helped save the area though and keeps tourists visiting that side compared to the mega casino side of the Strip, where our hotel was.

El Cortez Hotel - Las Vegas - 2010

The El Cortez Hotel is an old school casino...  or old school to me.  It has a Subway Sub in it.  That is healthiest thing in that place.
Beauty Bar - Las Vegas - 2010

The Beauty Bar (Salon of Beauty) is a great hot spot with a 60's style beauty shop theme inside.  They have cheap drinks and the best alternative music in Vegas (or at least the little bit of Vegas I saw.)  It is a great little hip place where youngins and oldins' (like me) are welcomed.  The concerts in the back lot are hot as hell, even on a summer night.  Great music.

Lady on the ceiling - Las Vegas - 2010

The ceiling of the renovated covered walking mall is a long screen showing music, dancing and sexy ladies eating cherries.   I would guess she is 15 feel tall in that photo, just to give a bit of size perspective.  I am not a big fan of this part of the Fremont experience, but it gave me good light to take photos with.
Showgirls -  Las Vegas - 2010

God bless the showgirls.  There were a number of street performers out there that night, including a few Elvises, mimes, and two beautiful showgirls that put on short routines and posed with the tourists for tips. There is something about fishnets and hot pink boas that seems at home in Las Vegas.
Cowboy in lights - Las Vegas - 2010

I forgot the name of this cowboy and the cowgirl below.  They are Vegas landmarks and I am glad they are preserved.  The advertising under the cowgirl tells of the modern age of this sin city.

Cowgirl in lights - indeed - Las Vegas - 2010

Emergency Arts - Las Vegas - 2010

Emergency Arts was a bastion of sanity for me.  It is a former clinic that houses a number of art galleries and a great little coffee shop that plays old LPs and has delicious healthy sandwiches.  As a tourist, it is hard to eat healthy in Vegas.  There is a great little museum/display inside honoring the art of burlesque and its history in Nevada entertainment.  I will post photos from there at another time.

Dinner Company - Las Vegas - 2010

We were starving by the end of the night and found a great little taqueria open late.  It was as bright and colorful inside as the strip.  Elvis, the tall black lady dancer, and the little lady in the shot glass looked over our meal from the shelf by our table.

I love Las Vegas.  I don't really gamble or take in the big shows, but the little things there are precious gems.  This is another great city that I need to get back to.  Terrell over at Photo Anthems Blog lives in a great place.


Sad day in photography.

Two of the best war photo journalists were killed in Libya yesterday.  Good photo journalists are world patriots risking their lives to make sure we see the story.  Like other patriots, these two knew the dangers, accepted them, and died because of them.  
British-born Tim Hetherington, co-director of the documentary Restrepo about U.S. soldiers on an outpost in Afghanistan, was killed inside the only rebel-held city in western Libya, said his U.S.-based publicist, Johanna Ramos Boyer. The city has come under weeks of relentless shelling by government troops.
Chris Hondros, a New York-based photographer for Getty Images, was also killed. His work appeared in major magazines and newspapers around the world, and his awards include the Robert Capa Gold Medal, one of the highest prizes in war photography. - NPR website.

Below are two NPR pieces about them.  The first reports their deaths.  The second is a Fresh Air interview with one of them.

NPR Story

Fresh Air interviews.

PHOTO note:  No photo today since the post is about them. 


Some would call it porn.

The Broken Pitcher by William-Adolphe Bouguereau's (1891)

I went to the Legion of Honor Museum of Art in San Francisco on Saturday with my art history instructor and a few classmates.  I was amazed to learn from her and another student that William-Adolphe Bouguereau's The Broken Pitcher was considered by many as porn/erotica at the time it was painted and exhibited.

Broken Pitcher shows so many elements of the theme of "lost innocence".  This painting was scandalous  and way too suggestive for some at the time.  I am not going to argue that the young woman in the painting, her expression, body language, and the items around her communicate lost innocence, but I doubt many contemporary viewers would catch the message and classify it as bold, if at all.

I think most modern viewers that haven't taken an art history course would catch all the subtle and not-so-subtle suggestive elements in this piece.  If you compare this painting to an American Apparel photo advertisement, the subtle concepts are lost to the modern sexualization of everything.

I am working on a similar image for my diptych series.  My image is much more direct than Bouguereau's, but is still more subtle than current fashion/glamor advertising.   (Below is a working version.  I will use a different tombstone image since this one is for a boy.)  I wonder how my diptych will be received.  To be honest, I am not holding my breath on it.

Courtney and Lamb - 041811


No news is... no news.

Rome - 041711

I gave up following the news for Lent.  I used to listen to NPR for at least 2 hours per day, read numerous news and opinion websites and followed other sources of information as well.   For the past few weeks my only news sources have been what friends tell me, what I get from NPR's game show, Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me, and the occasional Daily Show with Jon Stewart or Colbert Report.

Here are the big things I missed.  Charlie Sheen craziness.  Japan's tragic earthquake and tsunami, the budget wars, some Wisconsin state supreme court race, rising gas prices, and more culture wars.  I've learned a few things.  I really don't need to know every bit of news concerning most every topic in the world.  So many of them are beyond my power and really have no impact on me, nor I on them.  As Paul Simon wrote in the song, The Only Living Boy in New York:
I get the news I need on the weather report.
I can gather all the news I need on the weather report.
Hey, I've got nothing to do today but smile.
Da-n-da-da-n-da-da-n-da-da here I am
The only living boy in New York

Half of the time we're gone but we don't know where,
And we don't know where.

Here I am..........

I can't help Charlie Sheen and by following every drop of news about him, I am only feeding the frenzy.  I can't do anything about the budget.   I heard about Japan's tragedy through friends and I can help by sending donations to the Red Cross, but I didn't need the news to help me figure that one out.  As for gas prices, I really can't do a thing about that except try to use less of it.

Come Easter Sunday, I will get out from under my news-free rock and start learning about the world.  I know I need to keep current with the world, but not at the expense of too much "currency".  This "currency" is sanity, lack of influence, helplessness, depression, and too many things that have nothing to do with me.


The 10 foot pole.


"Choose your battles."
"I wouldn't touch that with a 10 foot pole."
"Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me."
"Some days you get the bear.  Some days the bear gets you."

My understanding for these over-used sayings grows as I age,.  I am starting to learn what is worth jumping in to, what is better to watch from the sideline, and what is better avoided all together. 

I don't suggest we ignore the problems of the world.  I believe it is important though to look at things and truly decide if the moment, comment, position, or debate is worth my scalp.  I still lose it too often, but I am getting a little wiser on when it is worth it.

Here is a bit of advice I've learned along the way.  If the issue is for the other person like a bone is to a dog, go into the melee with all your best weapons that will completely vanquish your opponent or just walk away.  It is near impossible to change a deeply decided mind with logic,  compassion and debate.  When I say "weapons", they can be as deadly as a gun or as powerful as a hunger strike, non-violent demonstration, or a piece of art.  If you are going to engage, go all the way, otherwise,  just pass it by.


I love this country.

Grand Central Station - NYC

I hate politics. I despise the vitriol poisoning common discourse.  I hate the fear mongering.  I hate the growing culture war.  I fear the backstabbing in Washington will only lead to a weak, sick nation, but...
Palm Springs, CA

I love this country.  I love the geography, the diversity, and the cultures.  I love how I can get in my car and drive everywhere that my gas money allows and see it.  I love that even though I am a Californian and many disagree with the politics of my state, I am still an American.  I am an American, for better or for worse. 

Why am I declaring the love for this country?  Call me a sentimental sap, but I saw a great Magnum photo essay called America the Beautiful and it made me realize how much I appreciate the grandness of this country.  Whether I am in Queens New York or at a Holiday Inn hotel in Sioux City, I know I am in my country. 

Donna's Ranch - Wells, NV

I really need a road trip and follow the inspiration of Robert Frank.
Duck Lake Road outside of Glacier Park, MT


*A woman's dress should be like a barbed-wire fence: serving its purpose without obstructing the view. - Sophia Loren

California Delta Fence - 041211

If you didn't grow up in agriculture/livestock regions, you may not know the main purpose of barbwire fences.  You would think they are there to keep predators away from your livestock. That is a part of it.  The main purpose of barbwire fences is to keep your livestock in a controlled area and prevent them from running away, getting hit by a vehicle, or mingling with your neighbors herd.   The invention of barbwire transformed the West from wild openness to closed agriculture empires.
Joshua Tree National Park - 041211

There are so many barbwire fences in our lives - things meant to keep us in.  Seat belts, social norms, sidewalks (to keep us from wandering into the streets), offices, cubicles, etc.  Our houses are our places to live our lives without intruding into the public.  I can get naked, dress, eat, read, watch tv, view porn, make love, scratch, belch, go to the bathroom, yell, listen to music, and do my personal stuff at home without it escaping into the world. 

I am neither a fence builder nor a fence wrecker.  We need them for safety and privacy.  They also hinder us from exploring out of bounds -  like kids learning to use crayons in coloring book and told "stay in the lines".  Barbwire is designed to scratch and cut both ways... those trying to get in and those trying to get out.  Nobody ever straddles or sits on barbwire fence due to indecisiveness due to the rusty barbs.  Either you are in or out.  The question becomes, when is it right to get out?


Is it just me or is it me?

Rome - 2010

Is it just me or is it me?

Seems people around me are annoyed, on short fuses, brusk, and impatient.  I feeling it a bit too.  Just wondering if I am part of the group or part of the reason or both.  Maybe it is time to send flowers and help others feel better, maybe even smile. 

The White Stripes is my favorite band.  I am bummed they split up this year, but I respect they went out on a high rather than over playing their music.  This little song, Hotel Yorba, always makes me smile.


"And strictly meditate the thankless Muse?" - from Lycidas by John Milton

Rome - 2010
Found this quote while researching the term "muse".  I am still trying to figure out how it relates to the rest of the poem.   Great quote though.

Rest of poem.

Painting, Music or Theater? Which type of art is photography related to?

Candace Nirvana On Set - 040311

"Photography has been, and still, tormented by the ghost of Painting...   ... nothing eidetically distinguishes a photograph, however realistic, from a painting.  'Pictorialism' is only a an exaggeration of what the Photograph thinks of itself.

Yet it is not (it seems to me) by Painting that Photography touches art, but by Theater.   Photography is a kind of primitive theater, a kind of Tableau Vivant, a figuration of the motionless and made-up face beneath which we see the dead." Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes, pps30-31.
What is a parallel type of art to photography?  While few still argue that photography is not art, we must look at what are photography's family (parents, siblings or even distant cousins) in the art world.  Paintings?  Sculpture?  Prose?  Music?  Theater?

It is obvious to compare photography to paintings.  The physical properties of a photograph are very similar to  paintings.  They are both two dimensional representations of something.  They both are flat and often in frames.   Photos and paintings are both hung and presented on walls.  Both can also be appropriated for other purposes.

While these similarities are obvious, we must not solely focus on them.   Ansel Adams compared the photographic negative and print to music:
The negative is comparable to the composer's score and the print to its performance. Each performance differs in subtle ways. - Ansel Adams
With this analogy, I appreciate the dual processes needed to create both music and photographs.  In music, I must compose the music and then perform it for others to hear.  Depending on my mood, proficiency, the audience, music hall, and other important ingredients, each performance is a unique reproduction of the score.

In photography, I must work on composing all the key elements of the photo and capture it to film or a memory card.  In the post processing work, I take that composition and make it perform as per my intention, purpose, and vision of the piece of art I am creating.  If you look at Adams' prints he made from the same negatives that he created when he was younger and then again in his later years, you see completely different performances.  He emphasized different parts of the photo, darkened areas, added contrast, and changed the mood of each piece.  I can relate to that change in performance when I go to the darkroom and make prints from my old negatives.  My current life, mood, technique, affect the final print and what I need to get out of it.

Another metaphor regarding changes in performance concerns sexual practices.  I doubt many people have the exact same sexual repertoire, appreciations, desires, pleasures, and annoyances at twenty as they will have at forty, sixty, or any other age.  The general concept of sex (the composition) is the same, but the performance reflects the time/age/mood/partner of the performer.

Candace Nirvana and Dali - 040311
Can we compare photography to sculpture?  It is not as obvious as paintings.  Sculptures are three dimensional.  As I walk around the sculpture, the light shifts and falls differently on the art.  The perspective is different.  How can photography capture this.  Outside of high-tech 3D imaging, the comparisons are hard to find.  First, I could take a 360 degree panorama, print it and tape the beginning and end together into a ring.  When I stand in the center and turn around, I am seeing a 3D view around me.  I could also take photos of an object from multiple views and by presenting them in an ordered series, represent the 3D in 2D.   I've photographed models with 2D photos projected onto them giving curve, texture, and depth to the original image as it becomes the "skin" of the model.  I am not too fond of this comparison of sculpture and photography, but would be interested in learning if others have expanded this concept.

What about the written word as an artistic cousin to photography?  Prose?  Literature?  Journalism? Poetry? Essays?  Each of these written outputs can be art.  How is photography going to capture a type of art that is only visual in the letters printed on the page?  It is our brain that must take the written text and make it "visual".  This can be very difficult.  How many times have we lamented that the movie was not as good as the book?  That is because we were able to visualize the written story in our mind and make it come alive.  When you see a movie adaptation, you are seeing another person's vision of the written words.

What about "a picture is worth a thousand words?"  My counter argument to that is the picture came first and the thousand words are used to describe it.  On top of that, my thousand words may be very different than yours in that description.

In my opinion, text is the clearest communicative form of art.  It is easy to get lost in the meaning of a poem, a line by Shakespeare, but overall, language is used as the most direct and efficient method of communicating something.  
The Assassination of Robert Kennedy - photo by Boris Yaro

Communication is conveyed through photography.  The famous image of a busboy holding the fatally wounded Robert Kennedy photographed by Boris Yaro conveys the weight and tragedy of the moment.   A newspaper could easily report, "Robert Kennedy was assassinated today."  That is as direct as language can be.  The difference in the communication between text and photos though lies in the gaps filled in the minds of each reader or viewer.  The words are direct and inform you of the facts and then your mind spins where ever it goes.  The photo shows the scene of the moment.  You see the shock on the busboys face, the death of an American giant, and you feel you are a witness to the tragedy.  It doesn't necessarily inform you as much as it makes you a witness.  Both methods communicate, but the received messages are so different.  The text is obvious and the photo takes "a thousand words."

In Roland Barthes' book,  Camera Lucida,  he makes the comparison quoted above of photography being closer to art through theater than through painting.  It wasn't until I read the following bit did I understand it:

"Photography is a kind of primitive theater, a kind of Tableau Vivant, a figuration of the motionless and made-up face beneath which we see the dead." (emphasis mine)

Whether I watch a play, the news, a movie, or any other form of cinema, theater, or television, I am watching a performance that someone has written, performed, or captured for me to absorb.  The news is an edited story or performance.  The characters may have no clue they are part of the production, but the director, camera operator, and reporters decided they now are.  The same is true for "reality TV", game shows, and other forms of adhoc performance.  Fictional television programming, movies, and theater  are obviously contrived stories that are being performed, edited, and rehearsed for the viewers consumption.

Candace Nirvana/Death Valley - 040311
How does this relate to photography?  First, a movie is a series of photos strung in chronological order that convey the sense of motion, action and story.  So, my one of my photos is a moment taken from time that had a history and future before and ahead of it.  In that photo, I have a caste of characters, whether they are people, animals, cars, mountains, birds, or even barbed wire.  Every component is a character telling part of the photo's story.  They are part of the ensemble that makes an image art.  This is true irregardless of the genre of the photo (documentary, journalism, conceptual, erotic, narrative, etc.).

Candace Nirvana/Death Valley - 040311
This capturing of a moment, whether fictional and created through props, image manipulation, or "real" recording a moment in history comes from a complex process of capturing all the seen onto a chemical/digital medium.  It is then refined through physical and chemical or computer assisted manipulation to create a finished piece that may be considered art.  When filming a movie, all things are same, except the final performance has a flowing temporal presence filled with sound, movement, music, and spoken words.  A play director, working with a team of specialists, create scenery, stage, and setting and then directs the actors through rehearsals until he feels the story is ready to be shared with the public through performance.  It takes many physical, real elements to make a movie or play a reality, as does a photo.

This is the part of the comparison that relates most with Barthes' statement for me.  A painter creates the whole story out of his mind by making brush strokes, mixing colors, textures, and shaping the whole image upon the canvas.  She may have combined her memory of a person, an object, and many other elements from her mind and rendered them as she sees fit on the surface, while a photographer had to physically gather all the elements, direct them, place them, and finally capture them.  At this point the photographer is more of a theater director for a frozen moment than she is a creator of a two dimensional piece.  Even in the post production work of photo editing, the photographer is accentuating or muting elements of what is already there, much like a film editor.  The photographer  can't just add more content unless she goes and creates it, photographs it, and then edits it in*.  A painter can paint over something and change the piece at her pleasure or intent.

So Karl, what of this new realization of photography being closer in artistic familiarity to theater than painting?

I now have a deeper appreciation for my role as director of the image rather than creator of it.  I can't pull a tree out of thin air and paint it into a photo and still have it remain a photo*.  I have to acquire all the "actors" in the scene, block out the stage placement, determine lighting, color, tonality and then capture the one instant conveying everything that must be communicated.

The role of photographer is even more challenging (for me) when I am photographing a fluid, uncontrolled moment, such as a wedding, street life, or un-staged life moments.  I have to wait for all the random bits to come together into complete photo that tells all I need it to.  Henri Cartier Bresson was a master of capturing this "definitive moment".

Valya 040311
I've found my best work is a mixture of capturing the scripted, directed scene and photographing an organic moment that is evolving from my initial direction.  When I worked independently with Courtney, Mollee, Candace, Valya, Tim, Jacqui and many other models, we discussed the initial start point and key moments I wanted along the way and then each of them created the rest of the story and I captured it.  If I compare the finished results with my original concept of how the images would look, they match up in story and purpose, but the unique surprises of the moment, small deviations from concept and the model's individual interpretation of the part make each photo a unique and creative captured glimpse of the scene. 

For me, photography is capturing the (as I understand it) world, grand, majestic and huge, or small, subtle and understated, and all areas between in a frozen moment.  It captures this theater, whether it is fictional or not.  It captures the time-frozen artifact so we can truly live in the moment and figure out what it means to us. 

* I am not going to go into photo manipulation that is so involved that it becomes photo illustration through adding whole new elements, replacing them, or deleting them completely from the photo.  At that point, the analogy of photography being closer to a painting may make more sense.

NOTE: Thanks to my photography book club for the great discussion on Barthes' Camera Lucida.

Carla continued on with this topic over at What We Saw Today with her views on this post.  Enjoy!