Pandering for votes

I entered a photo contest sponsored by Photo District News (PDN). I am sharing the link to the portfolio I built for the contest. It says you can vote for your favorite images, but I don't think it helps with the contest results. I would appreciate your feedback and criticism though.

Some of you may recognize yourself in the images. Thanks for helping out and enjoy.

PS- I was in such a hurry I misspelled my own name in creating the URL. Lesson learned about rushing.

Karl's portfolio link


Ides of August Light

Reeds - 081811

The ides of August light turn subtly smokey and yellow crimson.
These first signs of the coming solstice are still warm
yet the darkness of the coming decline into long nights
brings thoughts of my own path down the hill
I will never go up again.

The brilliant moon rises too, marking time
to reap what I sow, to harvest
my bounty
my sins
my pleasures
my toils
my burdens
my rutted field
and place the harvest away for the coming solstice to feed and bleed upon in the dark nights.

The leaves subtly a shade less green, less alive, pushes
thoughts of my own waning lighted candle
growing so soft it has no purpose.

The rustle of the wind in the drying trees
blows through me as well, warm from the hot late summer day
but will grow cold as my heart slows to a nullified quiet, my thoughts fade to grey
and my path ends at an early sunset on a winter's snowy park bench.


“I definitely want Brooklyn to be christened, but I don't know into what religion yet.”- David Beckam

Valya - 081511

I mentioned in my last post about my trip to New York that I spent an afternoon in Brooklyn.  I got off the train and met up with Valya, a great model I worked with last year while in the city.  As I went to meet her I was worried that the great art we created was a one time deal, but I was excited to see if we could try it again.

We talked a bit and I learned how to use her Canon since I didn't bring my serious equipment and had to borrow her camera.  We then set about the session.  I am not going to talk about the shoot other than Valya was amazing to work with again and always made sure to help me get what I wanted.  She inspired and contributed toward the art we made.

Valya - 081511

During and after the photo shoot, we talked about the work I want to create when I return during my longer visit later this fall.  I am developing a few concepts with her that are exciting and departures from my prior stuff. 

We had lunch after the shoot and I had to catch the subway to get to the airport.  During the trek back to Manhattan I reflected on the photo shoot, the conversation, and the energy. Valya is a top model that makes each shoot important, fun, erotic, and helps create great stuff way beyond what I wanted.

Thanks again Valya!  You are a true artist, muse and great lady.

Valya - 081511


NYC - You can go back, but don't expect to it to have waited for you.

View from my room - 081311

New York changes me every time I go there.  This time was no different.  During the days I had to do my daily job in a northern New Jersey town.  In the evenings I went into the city four times.  Most of the side trips to the city were influenced by my life-changing trip last summer in two ways.  First, I went to a few places I wanted to get to, but didn't get the chance.  Second, I went to see or revisit a few things that brought back happiness, mixed emotions, and taught me a few important life lessons.

Last summer there were three places I wanted to go to, but missed for a variety of reasons. The first was Times Square.  The second was to visit Strand Books in Manhattan.  The third was Brooklyn.

Strand Books - 081311
How can anyone who visits New York miss Times Square?  During my last visit some of my group went to it while I visited  30 Rockefeller Center while walking to the MoMA.  I went under Times Square at least three times on subway trains and transferred to other trains.  Many of my classmates got there and created amazing night images.  It felt like those tv shows where two people keep almost meeting and something interrupts or misguides them away.  I made it there my first night.  Three things about Times Square - lots and lots of giant screens and lights, tons of tourists, and now the great New Years Eve party makes sense to me.  I brought a great tiny point and shoot camera that I hadn't learned all the tricks with so my pictures of it are meh.  I want to go back to it because it has a the same simulacra feel of Las Vegas, which I also love.  I love seeing such effort put up to create a false facade.  Times Square is another great metaphor for life.

Strand Books is the largest physical bookstore I've been in.  I love books, but I am no bibliophile.  This place would be a sacred pilgrimage if I was one.  There is one large floor dedicated just to art books.  The photography section is overwhelming.  The erotic art section is larger than  the local Barnes and Nobles' complete art section.  In that section I bought the Taschen photo book La Petite Mort by Will Santillo.  I couldn't resist after I read the line, "If orgasm is the little death, is masturbation the little suicide?"

Valya - 081311
Brooklyn was a view across the river that I never visited last summer.  We went to Coney Island on the far side of it, but never explored the heart of the borough.  This time I spent part of an excellent and artistically enriching afternoon visiting with a friend.  (The visit with my friend will be covered in my next post.  Look at the photo on the right for a sneak peek.)  I walked around the Jamaican neighborhood for a while.  I couldn't help comparing it to Manhattan and thinking "minutes away, worlds apart".  This residential area doesn't have the glamorous charm of Manhattan.  It is a rougher area with a vibe and feel to it that make it tangible.  The music coming from the windows, the talks on the stoops, and the energy made me want to spend an evening there getting to know this rich neighborhood a little better.  Sadly though, I had to go and try to catch my plane out in Newark and had to leave all too soon.  I will be back.

Dinner Outside - 081311

As mentioned I also visited a few places I had been to before.  First up was B&H Photo on 9th Street.  It is my photography store Mecca.  I've bought four or five cameras there including my newest acquisition, an am/pro HD camcorder.  I want to experiment with moving images and need one before my big trips this fall.  I highly recommend B&H.  They are very helpful, friendly and non-pushy.  They know their stuff too.

After leaving B&H I had to go to the Empire State Building.  I plan a personal post about this icon of New York.  For now though I had to touch it.  I had to make sure that both it and I are still grounded. This beautiful building towers over all its neighbors.  It towers over me and is so significant compared to me.  I will always remember and revere it, but I am sure it is not aware of me or my connection to it.  More on this behemoth of a charged building later.
Times Square - 081311

How did New York change me?  I am still sorting that out.  One thing I learned though is that I've changed greatly since the last time I was there.  In so many areas I've flown high and I have also crashed and burned.  This has been a hell of a year.

In New York, everyone is a small individual in a great big whole.  Every person is their own story, but almost no one notices each other.  They just pass by and let the story move on.  There are an insanely overwhelming number of stories just on one block.  Sometimes they bump into each other for better and for worse, but sadly end up moving away, losing the connection that the city allowed them.  As melancholic as that sounds, I love New York City for its beauty and pain more each time.  Love is a complex beast.  It both builds you and tears you down.  Everyone has the choice to fall in love so I guess the beauty and beast of it all are self-induced pleasures and pains. 


Foreplay... I mean foray in New York

NYC- 080511

I leave Sunday on a work trip to Hoboken, NJ and will be there for most of a week.  I will have to spend most of each day in the NJ office, but my goal is to get into the city at least two nights while there.

This is going to be a scouting trip, or foreplay, for my bigger trip there in late October or early November when I will spend part of my sabbatical soaking in the great city.  I plan to photograph the hell out of it again on that trip.  I hope to meet up with old friends, like Valya and Moon, and make a few new ones as well.  It is going to be good for my art, soul, and happiness.  God, I love that city.

I've written a bit about that city and the big trip I had there last year.  There are beautiful, fun, and exciting memories that still make me smile.  There are a few that hold a special place in my heart that are beautiful, painful, and important to me.  No other city has had this effect on me.

Next week's trip is going to be just a tease for me.  One goal is to finally visit Times Square.  I know it is cliche to go there, but I have to see it at least once in my life.  I traveled under it numerous times last year getting to other subway stations, but never went up to see it.

I will bring a small point-n-shoot digital to capture ideas for the big trip.  I love a little tease before the big event.


"Literature isn't innocent."... - Roberto Bolaño

*Butterfly  - 080111

Nor is art or life.  Innocence is just a part of the spectrum of the world and the things in it.  When we look at all of the world (both concrete and abstract), most things can be innocent or exist innocently until innocence is lost, but are rarely innocent forever.  Innocence can be lost through many means direct and indirect, good and bad.

I did a quick online search of "What is the opposite of innocence."  The answers depended on how I chose to define "innocence" or innocent."

If I defined it as "blameless" then the antonyms were: badness, blame, corruption, evil, guilt, and sin.

If I defined it as "harmlessness" or  "naivete "then the antonyms were: experience, impurity, knowledge, treacherousness, wildness.

Another writer offered a more elaborate pairing of words:

I have a much used metaphor of comparing many of life's things to drugs.  Drugs are neither good or bad, it is how we use them that are on the spectrum of good to bad.  Drugs are not innocent either.  The same thing can be said of sex, money, humor, power, porn, art, propaganda, politics, cars, travel, humility, confidence, and love. Innocence itself is neither good, nor bad.  It is how it is used or removed (lost) that is good or bad or just is.

"Literature isn't innocent."  The Savage Detectives - Roberto Bolaño

When I was a teacher, we were supposed to plan our classes for the lowest level learners, yet provide content for higher level learners.  If I looked at mathematical innocence (naivete) versus knowledge, I had to make sure my content addressed both.  The same is true for so many other publicly consumed items.

The number one rule for a comedian is "know your audience."  Are they expecting clean comedy like Jerry Seinfeld, political comedy like Tina Fey, or ribald comedy like Bob Saget, or thought provoking, personal, and explicit comedy like Louise C.K. or Sarah Silverman.  In my opinion, all of their comedy is good, genuine, and appropriate for the right audiences.

Comedy is definitely not innocent though.  Clean comedy is not innocent.  It points out bad behavior, bad people, the human condition, and tough subject matter.  It just doesn't have all the fucks, shits, assholes and other expletives.

Art is not innocent either.  It is up to the creator's intent whether it is innocent.  Some people make innocent art.  Children drawing flowers, rainbows, and puppies is about as innocent as can be, but not all children's art is innocent.  A teacher friend of mine saw a child's crayon drawing that showed a grown up hurting a child.  After contacting the counselor and asking questions, they reported the incident to Child Protective Services as a possible abuse case.  It turned out to be a severe abuse case.  This young boy definitely created art that was not innocent.  It came from knowledge and experience.  This is an example when non-innocent art was the most important art that boy could create.  It may have saved his life.

If a child's drawing is not innocent, can a piece of art featuring a nude figure be innocent?  It depends on the artist's intent.  It also depends on how each individual viewer of the piece interprets it.  That is true for all art I guess.  What I may see as innocent rainbows, butterflies and leaves could be interpreted completely differently by someone else.  Why would it be interpreted as possibly loss innocence?  I believe it is the artist or viewers own life knowledge, personal psyche, and other experiences that shape that view.

There are many forces out there on all sides of the political spectrum trying to squelch artistic expression that is not innocent.  Some use religion or profit or politics or power or prejudice or many other reasons to bury non-innocent expression.  Is there ever a time when it is right to censure for innocence?  I am sure there are a few, but only a very few.

Sebastiao Salgado creates amazingly beautiful photos using the finest craft to make a finished fine art print.  The composition is perfect, along with the tonality, framing, and other artistic aspects.  The subject matter though is often tough, charged, sometimes tragic, and often painful.  It is not innocent.  He is sharing the loss of innocence of humanity through showing starvation, slave labor, war, and other catastrophes.  The perpetrators of the evil depicted would probably like to censure him.

**Bernini's Ludovica - Rome - Jan 2010
I gave up trying to make purely innocent pretty art a few years ago.  I appreciate those who can make it and know I don't want to and am kind of lousy at it.  I  enjoy making aesthetically beautiful photos, but they are not innocent.  My art lost its innocence because I have lost mine as well.  Some of my lost innocence resulted in knowledge, guilt, experience, corruption, and even fun.

My art is not anywhere near the importance or impact of Salgado's.  While we share that our art isn't innocent, that is about the only commonality.  This is good because there is already one Salgado and one Karl.   I've learned that art hates redundancy.

To believe things like art, literature, music, and other creative endeavors of life are or should be only innocent actually takes away any  realistic hope of it being innocent.  By demanding it being innocent, we force it to become ignorant.  We are censuring what it is.  There is a growing battle between purity, innocence and simple thoughts against wisdom, exploration, hedonism, expression, and progress.  We all will need to decide which side we lean to in this culture war and how far we are willing to advocate (or fight) for it.   Just by how I stated those words, I guess I tipped my hand on which side my beliefs stand. All artistic outlets shouldn't have to be innocent to survive and succeed.  Life is not innocent, nor should art be artificially innocent either.

*Taken in my innocent days of photography.
** Was Bernini capturing a non-innocent moment?  Did my photo of it make it lose its innocence? 

Don Henley - The End Of The Innocence by jpdc11