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Wednesday, 30 December 2015


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I'll have to see Carol. I was put off by the trailer, but trailers can be misleading.

For the past couple days I'm been fully immersed in the world of Sally Mann. My wife gave me her memoir Hold Still and it's a real pleasure to read. I love the flow of narrative and photos, with examples of her workflow.

I suppose it's my background in mathematics that allows me to go back to the future with computational photography.

I read Stephen Mayes' essay on the future of photography and, without seeing any images to illustrate his points, regarded it as merely unsubstantiated hype. After I read it, I viewed the video below it on the web page "A look back at James Nachtwey's career": Very Powerful Photos which constitute a complete refutation of Mayes' thesis that photography is somehow gone. Photos by photographers like Nachtwey will always trump the vapid, made-up images from "artists" (IMHO).

Reading Stephen Mayes's slightly wide-eyed predictions for the future of photography definitely calls for reading another set of photography predictions.

An excerpt
"At present photographers do not know their medium enough to use their medium. A writer knows how to write and a composer knows theory of music so that they can extend their arts beyond purely technical elements. But in the future the technique of photography will be so simplified and so widely taught and understood that the illiterate per son will be the one who is not a photographer."

Strikes familiar notes, eh? László Moholy-Nagy certainly thought it made sense when he wrote it in 1944.

Here's the 1944 Popular Photography article in which nine photographers of the day opined on photography's future. Although they were mostly better photographers than soothsayers they did manage to ring a few bells, albeit rather faintly.

Personally, I'd be embarrassed to offer such predictions; they'd certainly seem myopic in 50 years. But regardless of whatever image technologies fuel social expression storms of the future here's one prediction I feel 110% confident in making: A simple, "good" image will always have power to impress, regardless of how it is captured.

As a long time reader I feel the need to add, nice job, dad:) If X's youtube videos are a sign of skills, he's got a solid future in marketing. Happy New Year you to you and your clan(2 and 4 legged)!

So what does Xander think of upstate NY?

IF Vic lives through this part of his art he may eventually become a photographer of note.The views from the building tops made me want to look away.

An interesting bit of the New Statesman article was the reference to the color photography of Esther Bubley who I'd not heard of before. She was very Leiter like: a combination of the slow Kodachrome film (10 ASA in 1951) and perhaps a similar eye influenced by Abstract Expressionism.


She mostly shot in B&W (as a PJ) but her few color images of the Third Avenue Elevated Train, New York City, ca. 1951 are very interesting.


And the "always sparklingly clean interiors we saw in Mad Men." were almost a decade later than Leiter and Bubley were shooting in NYC (and in rather different locations). Mad Men started in March 1960.

Regarding "Vic Invades" - I am as squeamish as you, but I watched it anyway. Lets just say I did some squirming for you...you can thank me later. There are a few good/funny quotes in it (you could just listen to the audio...). Psychologically, I kept digging my heels in so as not to fall. I had to pause it a couple of times - I won't be trying this at home unless I can return to Carlos Castaneda and finally work out that flying business. Hey, it's a New Year so anything can happen, right? Put no limit on your dreams - if you dream it you can do it, right??
Grounded again. Maybe base jumping...

I also noticed the Saul Leiter qualities of this film-it was evident in the second scene.
I can only repeat what has been said about the cinematography of this movie-it is delicious!

Am really looking forward to getting Gus Powell's The Lonely Ones. The book, while deliciously small in size, has fold out pages that both embiggen the photographs, and force you to take that extra step to actually look at them.



I have no patience for any piece that starts by saying that RAW conversion is not connected with optical reality at all, but a multi-step chemical process that operates on layers of plastic coated with photo-sensitive dye somehow is.

Stopped reading right there. No need to continue.

Did you notice that there are now images of the Fuji Pro-X 2 floating about the web?

Just a small correction for a fellow Aussie: it's Cate Blanchette, not Kate. Check her Wikipedia listing. In my opinion, she's one of the greatest actresses ever.

Regarding "Vic invades" -- I don't think you can overemphasize the dangers of photography and trains. It reminded me of that high school kid that got killed earlier this year.

Nice picture of cards being shuffled, Mike.

Please tell us how you made it :)

It has some of what used to be called "glow" in the old days, often attributed to Leitz lenses.

[Hmm, okay...I asked Abby to shuffle in the same place, set the focus manually, and took 12 shots, of which 1 worked. (It wasn't a setup, she was actually shuffling, and we had to get on with the game.) X-T1/23mm, conversion in ACR and Nik Silver Efex 2. All my B&W gets 20% #19 toning and a #3 border at 95%, but as to making the tones fall where they did, all I can do is say that I fiddle until it looks right. There's no recipe; it's different for every picture. This one had some virtual yellow filter and a "burn" on the left edge and more structure than I usually use. Does that help at all? --Mike]

Another fast card game is Spit. Spit is like speed patience for two players. Here are some rules.

I play a slightly simpler game, but a major part of winning is getting your hand on the Spit pile with the smallest amount of cards, once either player has dealt their last card. Actually, as soon as they let go of the card. At that moment, you are both trying to dive under each other's fingers. Almost anything goes at this point.

You can also play Spit with four players, but you need two packs of cards. There are eight hands going in all directions, with four playing.

Teach this to teenagers when you are middle aged, and they will be beating you after the first game because the rules are simple and their reflexes are so good.

One of the nice things about this newfangled computational photography is that you can use it to make prints that look just like traditional straight photographs.

Watching "Vic Invades" made so many things clench up in me that I felt like I'd done 100 crunches. A few more viewings and I'll have abs of squeal.


Mike, I just logged-on to wish you a happy new year.
My wife and I were just in the Apple store in the Mayfair Mall and we spoke about how far away from an Apple store (and crowds) you were now.
Even though we are in Wisconsin, we use the midnight countdown from New York which gets us to bed an hour earlier.

Just another take on Time's essay on the future of photography: that's all nice and well, but how will all that replace the human viewpoint? Where is the space for creation and individuality in the dystopia predicted by Stephen Mayes?
I can't be bothered with this obsession with technology that plagues our world, and it perplexes me that older people advocate it so vehemently. I see it as a desperate attempt by some aging men and women to hold on to the present, as if there were nothing more to it than technology. It's only natural that kids adapt easily to new technologies: my niece is 3 years old and she masters a smartphone with a naturality that leaves me jaw-dropped. After all, it's the reality kids live in. But seeing adult people waxing so lyrical about the brave new world of technology always sounds suspect to me: are they trying to prove they're up there with the young ones when it comes to electronic gadgets? Are they afraid the future will pass them by?
This push for the digital wonders to take over every aspect of human life has the merit of causing an opposite reaction. Just like there's a growing number of people - even very young people, mind you - turning to vinyl, analogue photography is going through a resurrection of sorts. Again, young people are the driving force behind the revival of film. It's not a nostalgia-driven thing at all. Just like globalization has caused nationalisms we deemed extinct to rise from their ashes, digital photography is nurturing the rebirth of film. As for me, I jumped this bandwagon as soon as I realized what a fakery digital photography is. I couldn't care less about curved sensors or being able to upload a selfie to facebook instantly. I just want to express my aesthetic feelings through photography; being in possession of the latest tech isn't such a tall order to me.
In case readers think I'm an old fart who lives in the past, I also shoot digital. Although my digital camera is fairly recent, it is utterly obsolete by today's standards and is beginning to show some signs of malfunctioning. In contrast, my film camera was made about 30 years ago and still works perfectly. The things industry pushes before our eyes in order to keep us buying their products mean very little to me.

Wish y'all a great new year!

Reading the Mayes article brought up so much snark in me - he gets so much backwards that in the end we're just reading about his ideas about his own thoughts/ideology. His confusion.
First he convinced me that Photography started out Old and is getting Younger Now. As in the Formalism of Nadar, for one.
Actually the hype finally dies off & we can behold Photography as simply another image making tool, regardless of its special qualities.
Snark comes to a head for me when I read, "...more sophisticated imagery that is dynamic and responsive to change, connected to reality by more than a static two-dimensional rectangle of crude visual data isolated in space and time..." and I think: They Were Called Talkies!
Sheesh! A fine example of Intellect & Ideology filtering out experience & direct apprehension of an Art. Get out of my way! I will see for myself!

I hereby issue a correction to my email to Mike, in which I completely wrecked the spelling of the actor's name. It is Cate Blanchett, not Kate Blanchette.

And with that, I'm fired. ;-)

[Heck, that's on me. Editor's job. [g] --Mike]

Happy 2016 Mike, good to have you in the Empire State.

Re: Vic Invades, today's news carried a death from NYC that I"m sure was amoung that group or it's wannabes. Young people climbing an interior scaffolding to reach the roof of the 4 seasons, carrying various camera gear?? Check it out. Maybe the NYT should publicize it some more..

Happy New Year, Mike.
Thank you for yet another year of writing. I enjoy your work every day.


The Vic Invades video didn't bother me, but this one from a hike along El Caminito del Rey sure does give me the willies!

Happy New Year to you and yours in 2016, Mike!

Many thanks for all the articles, and for the detailed explanation of how the 'shuffling' photograph was made.

PS: I see Nik Silver Efex 2 is now owned by Google, which has relegated it to a web page that's rudimentary by 1994 standards. Perhaps the end is nigh? Google doesn't care, a multi-billion dollar corporation can lose interest in an insignificant asset like Nik in no time at all.

Mike, don't fret over the misspelling of Australia's best actress. It's properly spelled J-U-D-Y D-A-V-I-S, or sometimes J-A-C-K-I W-E-A-V-E-R :-)


Double spell check

Cate Blanchett

Wikipedia and imdb.com

More on the movie 'Carol' -- its photographic inspirations and the decision to shoot it on 16mm film


This nice shot made me remember something similar that Peter Turnley took.

With reference to the Dec. 4, 2015, discussion on "Photography vs. Digital Imaging," I like Stephen Mayes' use of the term "computational photography." I think this gets at the essence of the thing as far as the digital side is concerned. Bit of a mouthful though. So is "analog photography," and I don't think analog photography is precisely the right term. Still, I think the contrast between "computational" and "analog" suggests the heart of the matter.

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