Friday, March 26, 2010
Following on from my post 'An Incident in Times Square' comes 'Keeping in Touch' a short film I made as part of the Irish Film Board's 'Short Shorts' scheme in 2007.
Featuring the recordings of almost three years worth of original voice messages that Patrick Dillon left on my mobile phone and inspired by Chris Marker's incredible 'La Jette', the film was made entirely with still photographs.
Frustrated with the US regime of then President George Bush, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the incessant ‘cellphone techno-babble’ that modern society thrives on Dillon, always popping up as an ‘unknown caller’ on my phone, vented his anguish in hours of voice messages that were eventually distilled into this short animation.
I had originally used the quotation below from Saul Bellow to introduce the film but it was made for the cinema screen and not the laptop and thus a little hard to read. Here it is in all it's moody glory...
"For Instance? Well, for instance, what it means to be a man. In a city. In a century. In transition. In a mass. Transformed by science. Under organized power. Subject to tremendous controls. In a condition caused by mechanization. After the failure of radical hopes. In a society that was no community and devalued the person?"
Saul Bellow, Herzog
Big ups to Producer Steven Courtney, composer Steve Lynch and of course the one and only Patrick for all their hard work on the project.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Enormously sad news that friend AK Kimoto passed away suddenly this week from a heart attack. He was 32.
I met him in Kabul this time last year and we became fast friends. He was a genuinely lovely guy with a huge passion for life and photography. His easy going personality, openness and patience permeated everything around him.
It's been a shock for all of us who knew him, our thoughts go out to his family and loved ones.
Koudelka, Spain, 1971
Not quite Rodney Dangerfield in 'Back to School' and proving that you can always teach an old dog new tricks, James Pomerantz is keeping us well informed over at A Photo Student where he's sharing his crazy college knowledge with the masses.
He just posted THIS interview with Josef Koudelka, perhaps my all time favorite photographer. Koudelka is held in such high esteem amongst so many, perhaps because he sacrificed everything to seek his soul through his journey in photography, hoping to 'find a passage from the unconscious to the conscious.'
His photographs bear witness to this journey and in them perhaps we can see a world somewhere in between those two states: not quite a dream world but not reality either.
Living without a passport, a home, a family or even an assignment and surviving on his wits for almost twenty years, Koudelka lived in his sleeping bag on a diet of milk, bread and potatoes (and presumably the good will of those who know him). He is perhaps the ultimate 'photographer's photographer' or as the Gypsies who he photographed for so long came to know him as: 'The Iconar'.
Koudelka, Ireland, 1971
I have taken great inspiration from Koudelka and of course began my own photographic process as a means to try and understand my place in the world and to use images as a tool to express that: not caring if they are seen but merely that I was there to take them and just to 'be': in the world and of the world.
Sleeping on couches, spending the last few cents on film, shooting and shooting. Very quickly though you realize that your life is slightly different, you are your own person and that there is, in fact, only one Josef Koudelka.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Proving that almost anything with the words Werner and Herzog in the synopsis probably gets my seal of approval, for your viewing pleasure comes this unbelievably beautiful short film 'Plastic Bag' by wunderkind director Ramin Bahrani.
I hold my hand up and admit that I haven't seen any of Bahrani's previous feature length efforts, Man Push Cart, Chop Shop or Goodbye Solo but all have been highly praised. Roger Ebert named Bahrani as 'Director of the Decade' for what it's worth.
Plastic Bag is that rare beauty, a short film that is perfectly suited to the short form. The film is kind of 'Wall-E' meets Herzog's own 'Lessons of Darkness' and is poetic, uplifting and timely all at the same time. It's social message touches on that black hole of human waste that no-one seems to want to dredge the 'Great Pacific Garbage Patch' alluding to the issue without beating us over the head with it or resorting to any kind of environmental hyperbole or hysteria.
Plastic Bag is part of the recently launched Futurestates project, a series of short films by established and emerging directors that aims to 'present a different filmmakers vision of American society in the not too distant future, fusing an exploration of social issues with elements of speculative science fiction.' Check em out...
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Lord of the photo blogs Joerg Colberg has recently revamped the look of his Conscientious blog. Check it out this instant!
Hands down one of the best photography blogs out there, Mr. Colberg's articles on things Fine Art photo and beyond now seem even better with their sexy graphic makeover. Ooh la la.
Always well researched and thoughtfully written, this article on the ethics and practice of photojournalism titled 'Why We Must See' was a recent one that caught my eye.
Joerg's canny ear to the ground also led me to the work of Gerald Slota of whom I might write about a little later as his work is pretty interesting by any standards.
Well played Joerg.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
For any aspiring documentary photographer, for any aspiring photographer, for all of us who are thinking, feeling human beings, the first time you encounter the work of Eugene Richards is a moment not quickly forgotten.
Like being punched in the chest - winded and in that moment arriving at some uncomfortable truth about oneself, Richards’ images confront us with our own humanity at it’s most raw and it’s most vulnerable.
From his seminal self-published photo-essay on the low income locals, daytime dilapidation and bubbling racism of his hometown in ‘Dorchester Days’, to his documentation of his partner Dorothea Lynch’s battle with breast cancer in ‘Exploding Into Life’ Richards takes us to places that, sometimes, we’d rather not go. We are willing to go there however and perhaps it’s because he’s taking us there.
Shy and softly spoken it’s wonderful to hear Mr. Richards discussing his latest book ‘The Blue Room’ - a study of abandoned houses across the US.
I guess it’s fair to say this work is somewhat different from what I am referring to above both in style and tone however the images 'The Blue Room' remain laden with emotion and pathos.
His voice, poignant and wry, he recounts his journeys photographing these abandoned properties and the ghosts they have left behind, real or imagined. Wedding dresses and war stories. Swallows that fly upstairs but can’t get down again. Stolen kisses and cigarette butts.
Worth the watch.
The original video file at better resolution from Host Gallery is here.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Turkana in north-western Kenya is one of those places that is about as alien a landscape as a suburban white kid from Ireland can witness. Being there is the type of 'edge of civilization' experience that jolts you awake in the pre-dawn every morning you're there, dried sweat candied onto your body, half wrapped in a mosquito net, gasping for liquid and eager to spend another day in this amazing place.
These images were made as part of my project on the Turkana. After making my first trips there with Irish NGO Trocaire, I returned to continue the work and to delve a bit into the culture of the Turkana people, beginning to show how the impact of Climate Change is slowly eroding their traditions and heritage.
It's a region which feels as old as time itself and like much of sub-Saharan Africa there is something 'essential' there in the air, in the people, in the cycle of life. I'm putting it down to being another 'mzungu', captivated by the colonial exoticism of it all, but it's a tangible thing, you can feel it.
The Turkana, tall and impossibly lean, perfectly adapted for life under a mad hot sun; the women with their braided hair and beaded necks, primitive goddesses to the last. The men appear bound to the earth, walking great distances with long sloping strides, without possessions except a hand-carved stool and a stick (and an AK47), custom designed for the life nomadic.
The Turkana stand at a cultural crossroads like almost all indigenous societies around the world, their traditions are slowly disappearing generation by generation, the pull of the towns and cities draws the youth away, their villages becoming places that represent only drought, conflict and food scarcity. These images are part of an ongoing project documenting that culture and the changes taking place within it. From indigenous rituals to the uneasy security of Christianity and the missionary life, Turkana culture is in a kind of flux that is further accelerated by Climate Change and the constant cycles of drought that we in the developed world mostly the cause of.
Labels: The Portfolio
Saturday, March 13, 2010
For film buffs looking for something a little different (and who happen to be withing striking distance of Kilruddey House in Ireland) this weekend sees the second staging of the Killruddery Film Festival 'Celebrating Lost, Overlooked & Forgotten Cinema'.
It looks like a wonderful event with highlights including John Boorman introducing 50's nuclear thriller "Seven Days to Noon" and Rebecca Miller introducing Sanjit Ray's "Goddess/Devi" which looks absolutely amazing. Great to see such luminaries supporting the event.
Goddess/Devi, Sanjit Ray, 1960
The festival which has discussions on Film art, Foley workshops for kids and is all hosted in the majestic settings of Killruddery House and Gardens looks to be a real gem.
Friday, March 12, 2010
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Watching this BBC Culture Show video with genius cinematographer Chris Doyle is kind of like watching a video of myself out drinking over the course of a long night.
Charming and poetic at the start, arrogant and self-aggrandizing after a couple of drinks and desperate, sleazy and grabbing at Asian girls by the end of another neon-soaked night with a gut full of cheap liquor...it's all too real.
Just about getting away with it while groping his way through the Bangkok red light district, Doyle shows us how his freewheeling lifestyle informs his ability to "create poetry" by "forming light in space".
Dirty old Aussie or not, you gotta love the results.
Monday, March 8, 2010
Atomic bomb damage, wristwatch stopped at 11:02, August 9 1945
"Sometimes a photographer is a passenger, sometimes a person who stays in one place. What he watches changes constantly, but his watching never changes. He doesn't examine like a doctor, defend like a lawyer, analyze like a scholar, support like a priest, make people laugh like a comedian or intoxicate like a singer. He only watches... A photographer is someone who wagers everything on seeing." - Shomei Tomatsu
Protest, Tokyo, 1969
Untitled from the series Eros, Tokyo, 1969
Friday, March 5, 2010
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Patrick Dillon: The Last Doughboy
The images below are related to my (sort of) long term project 'Tales of The Last Doughboy' on friend and collaborator Patrick Dillon.
Mooching around New York at seven am one morning, shooting with my Rolleiflex found me somehow in the swirl of an international incident as someone, only hours previously, had cycled up to the door of the Army Recruitment center at Times Square and detonated a homemade bomb.
Luckily it was in the middle of the night and there was little damage and no injuries but New York being a somewhat sensitive city to international terrorism, cops swarmed, reporters gathered, undercover detectives whispered into their lapels. Smoke billowed...from somewhere.
But not from the bomb.
Commuters went about their daily business in the middle of a frantic live news story. The newspaper delivery guy was late.
And all this before breakfast. I recall the light that morning being just amazing. Strange and wonderful winter morning light that rattled off every glass surface like a pinball machine.
How this is related to 'The Last Doughboy' project will be revealed here in good time (inshallah) when the hard graft in the editing suite is done.
I stumbled across the resulting snaps while editing pictures today and thought I'd post em up.
Here's to you Patrick, you crazy bastard, I love ya.
'AN INCIDENT IN TIMES SQUARE'
Labels: The Portfolio
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
I stumbled across this series of talks at the American Society of Cinematographers with incredible cinematographer Lance Acord discussing his work on 'Where the Wild Things Are'.
Director of Photography for both Spike Jonze and Sophia Coppola as well as countless innovative music videos and commercials, Acord is an inspiration for me, both for the simplicity and also the profound beauty of his work.
Always grounded in naturalism but using framing, camera movement and an ever-evolving but tell-tale colour palette that makes his work stand out, he makes it look easy.
Most interesting to me is the discussion about his early career, his love of Josef Koudelka, Robert Frank and getting his first gig as a photo assistant to Bruce Weber, making connections in the New York art scene, cutting his teeth on 16mm and getting the nod from Vincent Gallo to lens the indie classic 'Buffalo '66'. Great stuff.
Lance Acord at the ASC: Part I
Lance Acord at the ASC: Part II
Monday, March 1, 2010
Official call for entries:
No-one sees the world the way you do. The BBC wants to see things from your perspective – and create a unique picture of our lives today across the planet.
We are asking you to use any camera you can find – a mobile phone, a point-and-click, or a friend’s camcorder – and shoot a two-minute documentary with the theme MyWorld. We are looking for original films that you think the world should know about and will shortlist films that are emotionally touching, important or visually impactful.
The best will then be selected by a panel of the world’s top documentary makers and assembled into sequences showing the stories of each continent.
About the Competition
We are looking for entries from across the planet
You can interpret the MyWorld theme any way you choose. Your film could be a compelling personal story, tell of a place that is changing, or document the joy or difficulty of your work life.
Each film must be relevant to one of the five major continents – Africa, the Americas, Europe, Asia and Oceania – and must be tagged as such. You can shoot a single shot documentary, if appropriate to your story, or edit your film with any editing software available to you.
A selection of all work received may be shown on TV and online and an ultimate winner will be selected based on the judging criteria.
After submissions close, five prestigious MyWorld curators will each be assigned films from a particular continent. From each, they will choose and assemble a sequence of up to ten of the best films creating a fascinating portrait of the world today.
Finally each of the five curated sequences will be available to view online and on BBC World News. An overall winner will then be chosen and receive a prize of a semi-professional HD mini DV camcorder.
No-one sees the world the way you do. Make and enter a short film about life from your perspective and you could be broadcast around the world by the BBC (Closing date 1600 GMT March 12 2010)
Americas – Cara Mertes, Director, Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program
Europe – Greg Sanderson, Executive Producer, BBC Storyville
Africa – Mandisa Zitha, Festival Director, Encounters Documentary Festival
Asia – Fujioka Asako, Director, Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival Tokyo Office
Oceania – Stuart Menzies, Head of Documentaries, theclick Australian Broadcast Corporation (ABC)
The closing date for the competition is 12 March 2010 so just under 2 weeks left to enter.
More information is on their website: www.bbcworldservice.com/myworld
You can also follow the competition via their twitter account: www.twitter.com/bbc_myworld
First published in 2004 by Steidl/Fuel, the first edition of this book became both a publishing and a cultural sensation, lauded upon by anthropologists, ink jockeys, Russofiles and happy snappers alike.
Within months of it's small first run the Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia was fetching substantial prices on the book market and became too rich too quick for my shallow pockets. Thankfully late in 2009, Fuel published a second edition and it's accompanying second and third volumes are also once again available.
The popularity of the book can be initially attributed to the curious nature of it's subject matter, or the widespread appeal of tattoo culture in general. The Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia however goes far beyond mere eye candy, representing a full visual ethnography that takes us inside the Soviet criminal system, it's characters and the complex language of the tattoos themselves.
The Encyclopaedia's originator Danzig Baldaev, uses the book's foreword to explain how the project began. The son of an 'enemy of the people', his father was a famous scholar and a political pawn of the Soviet regime. Imprisoned and persecuted for his rich Buryat-Mongol upbringing and his refusal to tow the party line in persecuting his own ethnic minority, he eventually spent his days keeping a low profile, working a variety of odd jobs, away from the watchful eyes of the NKVD.
Danzig recounts that on showing his father some pictures from the 'Crosses' (solitary confinement cells) that he had collected while working as a prison attendant he said 'My son, collect the tattoos, the convicts' customs, their anti-social drawings, or it will all go to the grave with them'.
It's not exactly the heart to heart you ever imagined having with your Dad but Danzig spent the next thirty-three years using his job, first in the prisons and then in the Ministry of Interior gathering what he calls the language and folklore of the criminal world.
Baldaev eventually collected some 3000 'stories' of the tattoos in drawing form with fellow prison warden Sergei Vasiliev compiling an equally unique archive of photographs of the subjects. The project leads us into the fabric of the criminal underworld giving us a kind of alternate history lesson of the Soviet Union we never got at school. From skulls, to grinning pussy cats, sexually explicit hairy devils with harems of whores to Madonna with child, the tattoos themselves run the gamut, offering a glimpse into a secret language that literally branded the criminals for identification, denoting their crimes, gang affiliation and rank within the prison system.
A unique, wonderful book that has truly entered the world of popular culture, influencing, among others, David Cronenberg's 'Eastern Promises' and snotty misanthropist Martin Amis' 'House of Meetings', it's been in a forgotten corner of my wish list for years. Get yours while you can...
Labels: The Coffee Table