Archive for September, 2007

Radiohead – In Rainbows

September 30, 2007

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Whether you like Radiohead’s music or not, one has to admit that they are pretty goddamn brilliant for doing this.

Download the album online and pay what you wish. It just doesn’t get any better than that…

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Hotel Chevalier

September 27, 2007

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Still From Hotel Chevalier

Wes Anderson’s short film Hotel Chevalier is available as a free download on iTunes. That’s the prequel to The Darjeeling Limited, Anderson’s new feature length film opening today.

Luckily I didn’t bother wasting my time on line at the Apple store in Soho this past Tuesday where Anderson presented the short film. Joining him were the stars of the film, Jason Schwartzman and Natalie Portman. The line easily wrapped around the block. It seems that New Yorkers really love waiting on long lines these days….

Download it here or watch it on google video.

Michael Haneke

September 27, 2007

Still From Funny Games
Still From Funny Games

I forgot to mention that I read the Michael Haneke article in last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine during my flight to Los Angeles. If you haven’t read it yet please do as this guy is one hell of a filmmaker and there’s no one else out there making anything quite like him.

I didn’t realize that he was re-making one of his best and creepiest films called Funny Games right here in America (in Queens, no less). What drug was the Hollywood studio smoking when they gave their blessings and financial backing to the re-make? I’ve never seen the original Funny Games in the theater but I rented it a while back and was blown away by the bold concept and sadistic violence. It’s probably the most shocking thing I’ve seen in a long time even though it’s already 10 years old. Supposedly the whole point of making the film was to provoke the viewer. Haneke is way ahead of the times and certainly owns his own planet.

Also, if you didn’t see Cache with Juliet Binoche and Daniel Auteuil then you missed one of the best and most challenging films of the past few years.

Directing The Scene

September 26, 2007

Reading this anonymous photo editor’s blog has got me thinking about something I’ve had on my mind for quite some time. It relates to a phone conversation I had with a photo editor a while back.

We were discussing how to approach a particular shot of a church. Supposedly there would be some church members on standby at the location as the editor wanted people in the picture. But we had no idea if and when the people would arrive and how many would actually be there. I suggested that if necessary, I could shoot a bunch of frames of the same composition with different people as they arrived during the day and then composite them into one realistic photograph. The editor replied that compositing and retouching were against magazine policy.

So as I understood it, I could direct the photograph live on the set but in no way was I allowed to direct the scene in post. I found these restrictions to be ironic because it’s not like I was sent out there to capture a documentary image of the scene. I was there to make a compelling “set-up” photograph that told the story in an interesting way.

Luckily I got the “straight” shot and we were both happy in the end. When the story hit the shelves I was shocked to see that the magazine had retouched my photograph anyway. Without even mentioning it to me they removed a telephone pole and a set of wires from the image and then enlarged the photograph on one side by badly cloning the image over. As subtle as it might have been, those wires balanced out the picture because on the opposite side of the frame were some clouds that mimicked the wire lines. I remember thinking how nice it was to have that visual echoe happening on both sides of the frame, so of course I included the wires on purpose.

Go figure: The magazine who is against retouching and compositing went ahead and did exactly that without even asking the photographer’s permission (and I’m sure it wasn’t the first time, just think of all the celebrity covers).

One question sticks in my mind through all of this: What exactly is the difference between a photograph directed on the set or one created in the computer when the end result could be exactly the same and just as realistic? Is one photograph any less “real” than the other?

Tunafish Disaster

September 26, 2007

Andy Warhol, Tunafish Disaster (Detail), 1963
Andy Warhol, Tunafish Disaster (Detail), 1963

I spent the bulk of my day on a flight to Los Angeles. The moment the plane took off from JFK the gentleman sitting next to me decided it was time to break out a plastic container filled with tuna fish salad. Needless to say it stunk up the whole plane for a good part of the flight. Now, I’m a tuna fish fan as much as the next guy (specifically the Italian variety soaked in olive oil) but when it comes to the cramped quarters of an airplane one should be respectful to your neighbors.

My tuna fish eating neighbor turned out to be nice guy as we had a brief conversation. He was very keen on finding out if I worked in “The Industry” as I was busy reading a film script (Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited) for the first part of the flight. Turns out he has a son in film school and is always looking for a connection he can make for him. That got me thinking about my dad again as he is always looking to work an angle in my favor. Too bad I couldn’t be of any help to the guy.

Anyway, half way through the flight I took a nap and woke up to the smell of more tuna fish. I half opened my eyes to look around and my neighbor was at it again, this time enjoying a tuna fish sandwich. I guess he really likes the stuff…

A Photo Editor

September 26, 2007

Thanks to Conscientious for posting about this totally insane online journal. This is one hell of a great read if you want to get into the mind of a photo director at a magazine based in New York City. In a way it also relates to Alec Soth’s recent post about the book Image Makers/Image Takers which will get you into the mind of photographers.

I’d start reading at the beginning…..

Candida Höfer

September 25, 2007

Candida Höfer, Teatro Nacional de Sao Carlos Lisboa I, 2005
Candida Höfer, Teatro Nacional de Sao Carlos Lisboa I, 2005

Last weekend I walked over to Chelsea to see some of the fall shows happening around town. At Sonnabend Gallery, I found a new body of work by Candida Höfer, one of the German photographic art stars (Gursky, Ruff, Struth) who studied with Bernd and Hilla Becher at the Düsseldorf Academy of Art in Germany.

I’ve seen her work many times before, but the photographs never seem to impress me. I’m not saying that her photographs aren’t beautiful or interesting to look at. The photograph shown above is probably my favorite from the current show and I’m happy to see that she’s finally switched cameras from a Hasselblad to a 4×5 which I think is better suited to the kind of work she does. Part of me is just annoyed with what I believe she is getting away with and the other part of me finds the work lazy.

I know that some of my work has elements in common with Höfer’s. We’re both interested in architecture as well as the use of that architecture in the world, we both prefer our spaces empty and with subtle hints of human presence, we both work in color and print fairly large photographs (though Höfer’s are much much larger). In the end I’m not quite sure what she is getting away with nor with who but I guess what it boils down to is that I don’t care much for her life project, it seems too simplistic and easy.

Here is what she has said about her work:

“I photograph in public and semi-public spaces that date from various epochs. These are spaces accessible to everyone. They are places where you can meet and communicate, where you can share or receive knowledge, where you can relax and recover. They are spas, hotels, waiting rooms, museums, libraries, universities, banks, churches and, as of a few years ago, zoos. All of the places have a purpose, as for the most part do the things within them.”

Two of her most recent bodies of work are called In Portugal (on view at Sonnabend) and Louvre. Point your camera at any space or gallery of the Louvre and I think most (competent) photographers would come away with some pretty dramatic photographs, but isn’t that because the place itself is so dramatic and historic to begin with. I’ve felt a similar feeling for Struth’s Museum photographs as well although they are quite different in that they have people in them.

The question I’m asking myself is: What makes the photographs of these places so special or interesting and when does a photograph of architecture become more than just a document of that place? I guess I’m really asking the big question: when does a photograph of anything become art?

A Matter Of Life And Death

September 24, 2007

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I saw A Matter of Life and Death on Sunday at MOMA. This is an amazing color film from 1946 made by the always fascinating British team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. Just one year later, they made one of my all time favorite films, Black Narcissus. Jack Cardiff did the mindblowing cinematography on both films.

In this fantasy romance, a British squadron leader played by David Niven has to jump out of a doomed airplane without a parachute. Just before jumping he has an intimate conversation about love and poetry with an American radio operator played by Kim Hunter. The characters bond instantly and fall in love just by hearing each other’s voices. He somehow manages to survive the fall but all is not picture perfect as he suffers from headaches and hallucinations in which he sees characters from the after life.

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It’s a truly imaginative film with some of the most gorgeous use of color I’ve ever seen. The film switches between bold color in the real world and black & white for the after life. In fact at one point in the film, a character from the other world visiting earth complains:

“Ah, one is starved of Technicolor … up there”

Marcel Marceau, 1923-2007

September 23, 2007

Marcel Marceau with Jimmy Carter and family
Marcel Marceau with Jimmy Carter and Family

Marcel Marceau, the world renowned French mime died Saturday. Read more about him.

Sweat Dreams

September 20, 2007

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