Friday, April 30, 2010

Every Corporate Shoot Needs A Pinata


David Bornfriend making adjustments to the pinata, April 2010

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Three Words


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Jimbo Embry lives in Los Angeles and writes copy in the world of advertising. A friend suggested I show him my Echolilia project to see if he could come up with a phrase that sums things up...something that explains things to people in terms they can grasp. We have common friends, he has seen the project evolve a bit over the years. I send him a note asking for help and responds with this:
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Hey Tim-
I thought of a phrase that I believe fits nicely. Its got a dual meaning. One from your perspective and one from your son's. Both with different outcomes. At the same time it seems to be a unifying thread as to why you are taking the pictures and your son is so unique in them:
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Sometimes I wonder.
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Two perspectives and one relationship from the start.
Let me know your thoughts. I am sure that you will know immediately if these are the right or wrong words and/or sentiment. Please let me know as soon as you do.
Thanks for trusting me with this,
Jimbo


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He was right...I did know immediately.
These three words seemed to tie everything together. A sense of wonder and fascination but also a sense of disquiet and concern. Uh-oh....I really wonder if.... And it worked for both my son and myself- both our roles in the project. It was like someone handed me the keys that unlocked the box that held all the secrets to the project. I always like the arty solutions, so I shared it with more practical minds:
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Oh that's good. It sounds like Raymond Carver.
This a much better way to get the job done — what creative mind doesn’t wonder/wander?
I read his note to my wife who has always had reservations about the project and she melted: that's it.

It clearly spoke to everyone. Now...we need to figure out how to use this line.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Bedroom Galaxy


Bedroom Galaxy, 2010

My son turned off his lights in his room and made this photograph.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Friday, April 23, 2010

I Forgot How Much I Loved Les Krims



Big auction of books and work by Les Krims at Photo Eye in Santa Fe this week . Looking thru the work reminded me of just how utterly original and inspiring his work has been to me: seeing one of his shots always gave me license to feel like I could just do anything in a photograph.

Hearing the Philip-Lorca diCorcia lecture he touched on the idea of setting up photographs...how radical and unconventional it had been in the past, and now was totally the norm. Arthur Tress and Krim's work came immediately to mind. Here are some images to remind ya. Theatricality can sometimes just be so simple and still really move you.

See the Les Krims books for auction at Photo Eye HERE, HERE, and HERE.





all photographs copyright Les Krims

Thursday, April 22, 2010

My Favorite Image From The PLD Lecture



Philip-Lorca Dicorcia spoke at CCA last nite.
My favorite image from the show is above.
A camera phone snap of he and Jim Goldberg is below.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

We Are Gonna Get This Thing Done



Thanks for all your input yesterday.
There is nothing like having a deadline to make yourself get something done. Still don't know how to end this book...or how to deal with the text, if any, but sometimes you need to just decide...

Monday, April 19, 2010

Echolilia Covers

Trash Can Cover #1
Designer Jennifer Pyle is working on the cover finals for the Echolilia book we are self publishing for Tidepool to show at visits and gift to interested agencies. Am I done? Not really, but this is an excuse to see a trial version in hard copy and work out the glitches.
These are some covers we mocked up for Jennifer before she gets to work. The current favorite is the top one.
Any thoughts on favorites, chime in here below...

Hose Cover, #2
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Balloon Cover, #3
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Nest Cover, #4

Friday, April 16, 2010

Ode To The Uncanny Valley


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I'm fascinated by humanoid robots and the way they make me feel - a deep, cringing, uncomfortable instant reaction. I got really fixated on this idea to do an almost loving Ode to the Uncanny Valley. I wanted the music to be a jaunty, happy tune. It makes seeing the string of creepy images even more fun and somehow, even more unsettling.
-Randi Silberman Klett

Ok...the end of Robot Week. It wasn't really a full week of robots...we got sidetracked trying to entertain folks with our massive spam launch...but we will end strong. Above is Einstein, a robot created by David Hanson, now residing at UC San Diego Machine Perception Lab, shot for a story in Smithsonian. It makes a cameo in Randi Silberman Klett's production " Ode To The Uncanny Valley".

Silberman, photo editor at Spectrum Magazine, launched this curious chunk of entertainment and education a few weeks back on the Spectrum website. What could she have been thinking? Her answer leads off this post. Take a look at the video and see what you think....






Thursday, April 15, 2010

April Spam Launch



Launching a massive spam campaign in a matter of hours...so Robot Week may need to be interrupted while some more universal stuff gets posted welcoming all newcomers. Don't worry...it'll end with a bang on Friday.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Humpty Dumpty In Oakland



Maybe it's going to be Robot Week on the blog ?

Last month I was working on the photograph that was of...or about...or simply included this bust of author Philip K. Dick. It was created by robot maker David Hanson, I had photographed the bust in his studio in Plano, Texas while on assignment, but wanted to place it elsewhere. Was the photograph about PKD? Was it of PKD? Is this about literature or is it about the creative process...or is it about science fiction?

I went to the bookstore, ignoring VALIS and other influential PKD books and was sucked in by the title of "Humpty Dumpty In Oakland" and started reading. Here is PKD, out of the science fiction realm, writing about real people living on real streets I drive on every day. Dark and depressing, but hitting a core of truth, here is a wikipedia plot summary:

During the early sixties, Jim Fergesson decides to sell his Oakland-based garage business, which annoys his business tenant, used car salesman Al Miller, who rents a lot from Fergesson to sell his vehicles. Chris Harmon, an entrepreneur, advises Fergesson to invest in a new garage located in Marin Country Gardens, which Jim visits. On his way back to Oakland, Jim has a minor heart attack. Miller is convinced that Harmon is corrupt, and tries to blackmail him about his alleged sale of pornographic recordings. At the same time, Al starts a job with Harmon, which he initially believed was selling classical music, but then discovered was related to barbershop music sheets. He disrupts the final contract signing between Fergesson and Harmon, playing on the former's paranoia, and the entrepreneur never gets his chance to close the deal, as Jim dies that night.

Al's used car lot is vandalised, his wife Julie quits her job, and they run off, while Lydia, Jim's widow, discovers that her late husband's deal with Harmon was not as corrupt as Al pretended. Al is temporarily arrested after Lydia threatens to sue him for fraud, Julie leaves him, and Al starts a new relationship with his real estate vendor, Mrs. Lane.

Got that? Take it in...see what you think. The story is slow moving, rainy day grey, kind of hopeless. Every option the characters pursue just land them in another form of purgatory. And all the while the streets of Oakland, Marin and the East Bay are winding thru the story. Looking at the photograph today, I realize that the undertone of melancholy in "Humpty Dumpty In Oakland" ended up directing the pallette of the series and tone of the photograph.

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Things That Look Like Humans


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I have always been interested in pointing my camera at machines that look like humans.

I've also been interested in the people engaged with these machines...so the robotic work of David Hanson seemed like something rich to explore. Discover Magazine commissioned me to go see what Hanson was up to back in the fall and we are psyched that the story is out this month and psyched that the series will be in the PDN Photo Annual this year as well. Yea for us!
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Hanson is influenced by science fiction author Philip K. Dick and in 2005 created the Philip K. Dick Android Project: an android robot of Dick that answered questions about his life, his work, and recognized close relatives of Dick who approached him. With tape recorder in hand, I asked Hanson to give me some backround. It's long and stream of consciousness stuff, but I wanted to share it because it really reflects what it feels like to speak to Hanson. It can be kinda epic:
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When I was 18 yrs old I read the book VALIS by Philip K. Dick. In this book the narrator felt, in a flash of pink laser light, that he received this charge by the universe of information about how this future entities called Vast Active Living Intelligence Systems ( VALIS) were working thru humans to make themselves come into existence. This is what he called the God Artificial Intelligence. A fusion of human biology and technology, reaching this state of transcendence he was thinking this was going to come into existence in our future.
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I had this type of realization myself ...on my own...as a 15 year old, that this was going to come into existence. It was either that or disaster to me. So reading this book at 18, being this mad creative teenager, and adding my own poetic vision, I mean I was into science and art, it was almost like reading the book was like looking into a mirror. In the book, the narrator receives this message and here I am reading this book and it was powerful, because I felt I got this message too. Here I am reading this schlocky science fiction and there was this revelation! VALIS motivated me to want to build robots that would help save humans from their own destructive tendencies.
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As I read PKD literature, I saw these robots that thought they were human, they had sometimes more compassion than humans, in some cases they had less compassion than humans. It seemed like such a metaphor for human evolution and how the human mind is. We have this idea that the human mind is in control of its self and the universe, but the truth is the mind is so out of control. It seemed like that was the true nature of creativity and the true nature of civilization and PKD tapped into the madness of it all. Ultimately compassion defines humanity. The dark side is where compassion is compromised, taken away from humans and technology. So in VALIS, this Vast Active Living Intelligence System exists only because it does have compassion.
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It represented my own sense of what art could be through robotics. Making this robot version of Philip K. Dick that embodies science fiction , embodied a work of science fiction, that aspired to be science fiction, seemed perfect to me. Its intelligence, while not using cutting edge AI, it depicted a human , a totally brilliant creative human, was totally fictitious. There wasn’t that kind of creative genius in the machine. It was really just a portal into the creative works of this great author , it was a ghost echoing the thoughts of this great man. But with the prospect , evocative proposition that it could evolve into a machine that was as creative as this man who embodied it, and then beyond that , so that it became a seed of the great compassionate super intelligent machine that was in VALIS.

As I toured Hanson’s studio, Philip K Dick was gone. The original clay bust, exhibiting one blue eye and one red eye, remained. What happened to PKD?

I lost it…it was lost. Someone lost it. I was getting like 2 hours of sleep a night. I was going to Google with PKD to do a demonstration. I had him in carry on. I didn’t know we were changing planes in Vegas. I fell asleep and they woke me up and hustled me off the plane. I realized I forgot the PKD in the overhead compartment. American West told me they had it, they said they located it and would ship it, but it didn’t arrive. Either someone took it or it was just lost lost… sometimes things get lost.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Friday Night Videos

The Tiger Lillies- Living Hell from Mark Holthusen on Vimeo.

I had a dream the other night I was forced at gunpoint to create a video.

But I like photography....I don't want to make a video. It wouldn't look like me...

Just saw The Tiger Lillies-Living Hell by Mark Holthusen and really just could not believe how well this video manifested the artist's aesthetic. It actually seemed as if video was the more fully realized medium for his rich and complex imagery. The grotesque makeup, the sea sick feeling of unbalance and the floating snow setting the pace in this world of sketchy characters are all themes that have surfaced in his still photography over the years. It was so powerful, such a smooth transition, I really didn't know what to say. It was all there.

Then today on The Photography Post I see Die Antwoord-Wat Pomp directed by Roger Ballen. A little less fully realized compared to the Holthusen video, makes me cringe in a way where I kind of wish Ballen didn't try this...but fascinating attempt to ponder.

See them here. See Holthusen's work HERE. See Ballen's work HERE.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Suburban Couple By E.A.


Suburban Couple by Eli Archibald 4/2010

Two friends stopped by to borrow some gear.
My son asked to photograph them with the Hassleblad.
This shot resulted, wonderfully lopsided.
It looks like the mini van is the un-welcome third party in their relationship.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Survival Of The Fittest / Winter


Natural Selection #4

So what is the deal with these animal things on your site? Did your kid make them?

No....well, he made one of them. It doesn't really matter though. Why, do you like them?

Yeah, they are kind of great. But they aren't really photographs...I don't like them as photographs, I just like them as things.

Oh, me too. What's the difference though?

Photographs are something you make and you contribute to. These things you really just pointed the camera at, right?

Duh. But I focused.

I'm sure you used auto focus.