Sick idea? Maybe. Maybe not.

We’ve all been disgusted with the story of the demise of Cecil the Lion at the hands of the dickless dentist.  Naturally, this event prompted more coverage about big game hunting in general.  It’s truly disturbing that there are all of these enterprises that provide safari experiences to wealthy people so that they can kill trophy animals.  And, they kill them from hides, from moving vehicles, they bait them with carcasses and ambush them.  They are cowards with deadly toys, overcompensating for some profound vacuum in themselves by lording their power over basically defenseless creatures.  Sure, they have claws and teeth, but they never get close enough to make it a fair fight.

I am not a hunter.  I think deer are cute and rabbits are adorable.  I grew up in the Bronx.  Not much of a hunting culture.  Had I grown up in a different environment, I might be less anthropomorphic in my perception of these creatures.  I understand the need for hunting.  I don’t judge hunters.  I’m just not one of them.  But culling herds for the benefit of the greater deer community, for example, or to put venison on the table, is a far cry from decimating the populations of animals that are struggling to survive our poor stewardship of the planet and its beasts.

I detest poaching, and I don’t condone it, but at least I understand the motive.  Humans have created a demand for certain animal items and, naturally, there are those who will satisfy that demand.  Pretty basic.  What reasons, other than blatant egotism and the need to identify with the most primitive concepts of manhood, can be offered by these modern big game hunters?  They belong to clubs, they feed on each other’s egos, and don the costumes of the “man’s man,” the intrepid hunter, the brave warrior.  But, the emperors are naked.  The costumes are transparent, revealing the nasty little boys pulling wings off flies or burning ants with a magnifying glass.  Hopefully, they are a dying breed themselves, and perhaps we can expedite that process.

I can’t fund this (and it would be a criminal thing to do anyway), but just for the sake of  imagination (and the small tinge of vengeful satisfaction the very thought brings), what if there were a bounty placed on the trigger fingers of these club members?  Rank them in accordance with the kill logs they proudly put online, and price their digits accordingly.  Imagine, a million dollars for the trigger finger of whoever is #1 on the list.  Make their trigger fingers trophies.  I envision a whole subculture of collectors being created, moving silently in the night, chloroformed rags and garden shears in hand, looking to make some quick money while ridding society of a plague.  Or, at the very least, forcing them to learn to shoot left-handed (if one is not certain of the handedness of a hunter, then taking both index fingers would be considered acceptable).

Should we begin a Kickstarter campaign?  Dollars for Digits?  I love it :)

Body of work, literally

While waiting in the doctor’s office (for some forgotten reason), sitting in my underwear, I got bored looking at the very colorful posters of the digestive, nervous, and skeletal systems.  I turned my iPhone camera on myself and began to photograph small sections of my body.  I found the folds most interesting, and I seem to have more of them now than in earlier years.  It was a whimsical way to pass the time, and I didn’t give them much more thought until I looked at them days later.  Suddenly, they took on an identity that hadn’t been a conscious part of the casual mindset I was in when I created them.  Yet, there they were.  They are literally me, physically and artistically.  Images of some parts of me that have no larger context, and so they are seen separately.  I know it’s been done before, but when has that ever deterred a photographer?  Should that ever deter a photographer?  I say no.  I don’t know if I ever would have thought of doing this same thing in a more thoughtful and deliberate way, in-studio with carefully calculated lighting, because then the idea would have seemed egotistic, pretentious, and mostly, derivative.  But as it occurred spontaneously, I feel it is more pure and truthful than if it had been preconceived.

Certainly, the images could be viewed simply as visual puzzles:  What are those body parts?  How many can you guess?  Sorry.  No answer key is provided, for to do so would then surely relegate this small project (it became a “project” after the fact, after I decided to share them) to the status of a game (also, I’m not sure that I can still identify with certainty which parts are which).

The very simple explanation of these images is that they are the offspring of a brief marriage between boredom and creative impulsivity.  Nothing more profound than that.  Hope you have fun looking at them.  IMG_1362 IMG_1363-2 IMG_1364-2 IMG_1395 IMG_1397 IMG_1399 IMG_1400-3

Getting Small

I’ve been getting small(er).  Not in the way that Steve Martin meant (for those of you who may remember), but in my camera bag.  I sold the D800 because the huge files are just unnecessary in my current state of semi-retirement. Also, it’s just too cumbersome to take when I travel, and the lenses only add to the bulk and weight. After many years, my right shoulder is lower than my left. I credit my pal Troy with introducing me to the micro four-thirds format in general, and the Olympus E1 in particular.  It’s a technological and optical wonder in a small package, and the files are stunning enough that I would not hesitate to use it for professional work (note, I said semi-retired, not dead), in addition to the DSLR I still have.  It’s my new back-up camera and the one that will traverse the globe with me.  The accompanying images are from the new Olympus E1.  Thanks to my models, Troy, Jim, George, and Sophie.









You know a sociopath

What sounds initially like one of the most disturbing statistics you could imagine becomes a bit less so when terms are more accurately understood.  Specifically, I am referring to the fact that 4% of the general population (that’s 1 in 25) are sociopaths, who, by definition, are totally without conscience.  More simply, they do not experience guilt about anything they might do or say.  If you’re thinking, “That can’t be right,” it’s probably because you think of a sociopath as a violent offender.  Certainly there are violent, sadistic, and brutal sociopaths, but there are also those among us whose sociopathy takes less recognizable forms.  Rather than committing genocide (which would be one extreme of the continuum), you undermine a colleague’s project by telling a lie to the boss.  Rather than kidnapping and torturing a young girl, you bully those who are your subordinates just because you can, and it feels good.  Different ends of the same spectrum of sociopathy.

The book “The Sociopath Next Door,” by Martha Stout, Ph.D., explores the concept of conscience, it’s role and development in human society, and the inferences that can be made about the human condition as a result of this reality.  That is, if so many of us are lacking that part of the psyche that others deem essential, can the absence of conscience be labeled as a flaw, or is it a normal consequence of human evolution?

It’s really a fascinating read, and it will get you thinking about who is populating your particular human universe.

Out and About in the Bay Area

As mentioned elsewhere, Kim and I treated ourselves to a month’s respite from Wisconsin’s harsh winter (and apparently this February was a real bitch!) and rented a house for the entire month in the Berkeley hills.  The Bay Area holds a special charm for us.  Besides the sheer physical beauty of the hills, the bay, the parks, the coastline, and the sparkle of SF at night, we have strong emotional ties, as well.  We were married in SF, and Ben was born there. We both still have family and friends out there.  Anyway, here are a few images that I got while we were walking the streets and hiking the trails.

Just hanging out on Geary Street, waiting for Kim to come out of a store.  I couldn’t have posed this guy better if I had a megaphone.DSC_8209-2

Again, my fondness for working with reflections.DSC_8192-2

In Oakland, I came across this guy who had a mike, and an amp, some tapes, and he was as good as anyone I’ve ever paid to see.  He’s a local poet, musician, artist, and I wish I could remember his name and give him his proper recognition.DSC_8322-3

While hiking in Tilden Park, we came upon a group of forest workers who were busy with chain saws doing lumberjack stuff.  When I raised my camera, they struck a group pose as if they had been rehearsing it all morning, just waiting for me to come along.DSC_8496-2

Gallery browsing in SF

Kim and I spent February in Berkeley, and went into SF a few times just to see what was doing in the galleries.
We’re always looking for something, and every once in a while we see something that speaks to both of us. We just really have to look at each other to know that we are both moved, for whatever reasons move us individually. This work that Kim is looking at is not one of those. It would be a source of migraines if it was hanging on one of our walls. Actually, I don’t think we have any walls on which to hang something that size. Nevertheless, it was fun to capture Kim being hypnotized. Interestingly, she remembers nothing that happened the rest of the day.DSC_7563-4

I really liked this geometrical arrangement of “Light Switches.” I found the asymmetry appealing, and the monotonality, combined with the tactile dimensionality of the installation just worked well together. Unfortunately, I couldn’t buy it because it seems they were the actual light switches.

Points of View

My last post mentioned the Kohler Arts Museum in Sheboygan, where we took Rachel when she was visiting. I saw this exhibit (see image below) and it was one of many that I shot with my phone. I would have thought twice, or even thrice, about shooting this during the film era,
but I have succumbed to the idea of “why not?” It’s in my “What the Hell” folder of images that may or may not move me in some way in the future. That brings to mind the recent article in the NYTimes about Gary Winogrand’s legacy of more than 100,000 unprocessed negatives, but that’s a topic for another time.

In studying this one (by the way, I think the post title would be a great name for this work), what strikes me is that they are not perfectly aligned. Close, but not exact. So now I have to think, was that the artist’s intent, which adds an entirely new level of interpretation, or was it simply a small miscalculation when mounting the pieces? Are they meant to be perfectly symmetrical, or is their seeming mirror-like relationship purposely off by a few millimeters? Or, could it have been the angle of the camera? In looking closely, though, I don’t think that’s it. They are off a bit.

If perfectly aligned, they could never come closer to each other. As they are, however, if they were to move toward one another, they would gently slide along their respective lengths and fit like puzzle pieces. In that vein, I see them as male and female forms.
For some reason, I realized that I was thinking of the left form as female, but I don’t know why. When I try to shift my thinking, it just doesn’t feel the same. How about you? Does it make a difference?

Again, am I going down the path that has been paved by the artist’s intent, or am I just reading too much into the fact that the installation needed just one more gentle downward tap on the shelf on the right?

Or, did the artist do the installation, and accidentally misaligned them, thereby complicating what was to have been a straight-forward statement? Oh, the mind boggles!
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Rachel’s visit

DSC_1590-2For the past two weeks we have enjoyed hosting a lovely young lady from Madrid who Olivia met when she was there during Spring break. Rachel was living with Olivia’s host family, after having aged-out (at 18) of the foster care program she and her brothers had been in for most of their lives. This was her first visit to the USA, and, of course, it gave us an opportunity to take her to see and taste and experience as much as we could jam into the time we had together.

As in NY, where no native actually goes to the Statue of Liberty or to the top of the Empire State Building unless they are taking a visitor, we had the chance to enjoy some of the local offerings. The MAM, the Milwaukee Zoo, the Public Museum, the Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan (one of my favorite little places!), lots of great restaurants, Summerfest, parks, more restaurants, a day in Chicago, a couple of days up in Elkhart Lake. Damn, was I exhausted! Seriously, it was all great fun.

We took the architectural boat tour in Chicago, which I had heard about but had never done. It was really fascinating. Highly recommended. The Shedd Aquarium was a hit. Rachel was fascinated and wanted to stop at each and every window. I got some great jellyfish images. Rachel is very interested in photography, so she used my camera for a while and took some of her own stuff.

Rachel’s English is sort of like my Spanish, but we managed to communicate. Olivia is so much better, so the two of them were able to talk pretty well.

It was a tearful goodbye when she left. We all really bonded. She’s someone who will stay in our lives. She went back to Madrid to begin working in a restaurant and attending culinary school. We hope to visit her there in the near future.

The picture: One of the places we visited in Chicago was Millennium Park, with the Bean. Kim knew about it. I had no idea. The Bean is pretty cool. I would estimate that every day at least 10,000 images are snapped at that location. You can’t help it. At least, I
couldn’t. Even knowing that what I was capturing was just duplicating thousands of images taken by others, I had to click that shutter. Too much fun not to. The result reminds me of a Heironymous Bosch. If I could have supplied the crowd with hundreds of little pitchforks, it would have been perfect. Hmmm. Maybe for another time?


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