PHOTOGRAPHY

KOHEI YOSHIYUKI

Kohei Yoshiyuki, “The Park”, 1973

Kohei Yoshiyuki, “The Park”, 1973

A pretty good article to introduce an interesting photographer for those who don’t know of him. I remember reading about Kohei Yoshiyuki’s series “The Park” quite a few years ago when the internet as we know it was still young. It was such a strange project I thought, though I also thought it was pretty amazing.

The subject matter of voyeurism and Yoshiyuki’s choice to photograph the night voyeurs instead of the couples getting down in various parks in Tokyo inherently brings up an array of privacy issues, which as the author notes, feels relevant in the #MeToo era and the general lack of privacy felt online these days.

When I first saw them those type of issues were not on my mind. I was more fascinated by this curious subculture. In places like New York City, San Francisco or any major American city, this type of stuff is pretty common, though from what I know, mostly in the gay male community. Cruising in parks is common knowledge and it wasn’t unusual to stumble upon a couple of guys doing their thing while walking your dog or crossing Buena Vista Park when I lived in San Francisco.

However, I don’t really recall seeing a lot of voyeurs (although I’m sure they were around) and again, there were no straight couples that I heard of that used the parks regularly as hook up spots. I know plenty of people who’ve had sex in public but not the way the people in Tokyo were going about it. I suppose it was partly the freewheeling 70’s and partly the cramped living in Tokyo that led the people to the parks. Maybe a dash of exhibitionism as well. Either way, it makes for good thinking about a man with a camera 40 plus years ago, running around in the night and watching the watchers, and making images of them for us to really make this exercise in voyeurism astounding in it’s degrees of separation.

Fun stuff.

FV

 

SELLING YOUR SOUL

I honestly don’t understand people. I’ve been back n forth in an online forum about photographers giving their work away for free. I guess Kodak is the latest one that wants you to do work and sign all the rights away to them. Kodakit I think it’s called. What does it matter? All these people flock to sites like them and give their hard work away for free or ridiculously small amounts of money.

For what? To say you’re a published photographer? To say you’re a pro? I’m getting tired of this argument. The photo industry is ruined permanently. Anytime you’re in competition with free I’d say it’s a safe bet to get the hell out and find something else to do.

This gig economy can kiss my ass. These will go down as some the most exploitative times in the history of labor. Nobody is impressing me with talk of being a professional [insert some easily exploitable gig here] anymore. Man, I’m so bummed out by all these people, I find it hard not to want to see the whole economy just crash and burn for good.

I can tell you one thing, the thing we’ve mutated into is ugly and doesn’t work anymore.

FV

 

THE SEVENTIES

The 1970’s were a truly incredible decade. Set aside politics, art and music, and focus on the fashion alone. Narrow that down even further to people middle aged and above who embraced all the change going on around them and you get priceless anonymous photos like the one above. Very few mothers or grandmothers were dressing like this even through the sixties. Everyone jumped on board in the 70’s and thankfully it happened to be a time when home photography really took off to record it all.

FV

 

EDWARD HONAKER

Edward Honaker is a Southern California based photographer who appears to be mainly a capable portrait/fashion/wedding specialist. However, tucked in his very minimal website in portfolio #2 is an incredible body of work.

In this portfolio Honaker creates a series of black and white photographs that illustrate his own issues with depression and anxiety. It’s a stunning body of work, both beautiful and tragic. Anyone who has suffered these conditions knows fully how isolated one can feel even among the people we love. The lack of understanding or indifference by others further exacerbates that isolation. Honaker has captured these intense feelings so accurately they left me both speechless and overjoyed that an artist articulated my own experiences in such a creative, stark and fully understandable manner.

It’s an important series that shouts to those of us afflicted with depression that someone gets it and to those who have never experienced the crippling effects an insight to the emotions one feels, yet more importantly, I think the work opens a door for discussion and questions for others to learn about the subject. While not a taboo anymore, I still have the impression that many don’t understand depression and anxiety very well. Or they’ve read enough articles in popular magazines to think they do.

Each case is unique, and with great art like this I think it gives people a chance to share their experiences and gives others a chance to ask deeper questions to those they may know. For many of us, it’s something that doesn’t go away. It’s just there. Always there. These photographs give voice to that.

I hope Honaker does more artistic work as he clearly has the sensibilities to create thought provoking art. If not, I’m grateful he took the time to share this one.

FV

 

VIVIAN MAIER COLOR PHOTOGRAPHY

Vivian Maier, Chicago 1962

Anyone who follows photography somewhat seriously knows the legend of Vivian Maier. A nanny who led a seemingly mundane life was unknowingly out on the streets doing incredible photography. Her work discovered after her death she has been a sensation in the relatively short time since her work was found. I believe there is a film, though not sure if it’s a documentary or not.

Her body of work was largely known by many (myself included) to be black and white, square medium format. With a wonderful eye and sense of timing, it’s been amazing to most how this talent was kept secret by her. Now we find another mystery, that Maier shot a large body of work in color as well. Both medium format and 35mm. She had a good sense of color from what I’ve seen but it certainly is a different vibe, especially the 35mm work.

Here is a good article written by Elyssa Goodman that goes into further detail. If you’re a fan of Maier it’s worth a read and like me , will likely provoke more interest in the elusive talented woman we basically only know through her photography.

FV

 

INSTAGRAM THE OLD WAY

Random retro photo found on the innertubes. Reminds me of the way people used to share photos. Prints from the drugstore or the Fotomat, passed around our put into photo albums. Sure people still do that these days but obviously photo sharing platforms or even your phone is the dominant way now.

I’m not saying one is better than other but I think I’m personally going to be making more photo books this year. They’re cheap to make, the quality is pretty good and it’s something tangible people can hold. I’ll admit printing out photos and putting them in a album has crossed my mind many times but like a lot of people I get too lazy.

So I think I’ll start with the the online books. Maybe one a month might be a good goal. Nothing fancy or artistic (though I may make a few of those as well) but just my favorite images, no matter the subject, collected in a book.

Sounds good. I’ll let ya know if I actually do it.

FV

 

BACK IN THE DAY

Photographer: Jamel Shabazz (?)

A couple of super fresh brothers reminding me how lucky I am to have seen all the wild changes over the years. Those boom boxes were the shit back in the day, whether you were a b-boy or a metal head. A vital piece of equipment for hanging out. Now you walk around with the world in your pocket. Which is fine, but I’m telling ya, if ya weren’t alive in those days, the whole vibe was different. Electric. Fresh. People weren’t so jaded. Not that things were great but you had to get out of the house and hit the streets. Interact with all types of folks. You had to wait to get back with your friends if you saw something crazy out there. Ah, I’m a middle aged fart stinking up the room with all this memory lane shit.

FV

 

GLASSES

photographer and model unkown

I love these old nudie pictures from back in what looks like the 1960’s here. It’s not hard to imagine this woman was probably going out on a limb doing these photos and risking her reputation back then. That’s almost hard to believe these days with what’s available on the innertubes. Anyway, she looks great and I totally dig those glasses.

FV

 

DOUBLE EXPOSURE

00096_DOUBLE_X.jpg

I posted a couple months ago a double exposure and mentioned I was thinking of continuing it as a project. Since then I've been playing with the technique a bit and it's been pretty fun. I've got about 5 images I'm real happy with, including the one above. Not enough for a series yet but I'm not trying to force it. I've gone weeks without thinking about it and then a day will come and it feels right to look around for things that would work.

So far, all the images feature people in them and I don't plan on changing that. It's what gives interest to the image to me. It's just those 2 or 3 seconds between shots that give the feeling of time moving, things in constant flux.

I started by just doing all the processing on my iPhone in Snapseed but lately have been throwing the shots into Photoshop to get a little more control over the blending. I've been using some masking as well to bring out at least one element completely visible and unobstructed. At first I was trying to be real purist about it but with people on the streets I don't always get two images that separate well enough and it just looks busy and muddled. I don't go crazy with it, just enough to make the image have a focus point.

I'm gonna keep on going with them until I reach enough for a series and possibly after if it's still an interesting exercise. I don't know. I really enjoy printmaking a lot more than photography right now but I've been thinking of ways to combine image transfers with my prints.

We'll see. I have a lot of ideas but having trouble focusing on tying them together at this point in time. The world has my head spinning these days and I find when I get into thought about where we're at, hours have passed and I'm spent. That's where it's at.

FV

 

 

Isabelle Mège

Joel Peter Witkin: Negre's Fetishist, Paris 1990

I was looking for some inspiration today and decided to revisit the work of Joel Peter Witkin. The Etherton Gallery has a solid collection of his photographs if you are not familiar with his work, which is not for anyone who doesn't have an open mind. Witkin uses cadavers, body parts, dwarves, transsexuals among other subjects to create stunning tapestries that explore themes of death, sex and deviance. The photographs are often highly directed to evoke classic paintings, religious themes and mythology. His style and vision are singular, though not without their detractors. I'm not one of them and consider him among the more important photographers the medium has seen.

Anyway, this isn't really about JPW. While I was searching images on Bing (yes, Bing not Google - Bing's image search is far superior imo), I clicked on the image above and noticed it was included in a New Yorker magazine piece. Curiosity got the best of me and I found myself stuck in a fascinating tale of a French woman, Isabelle Mège, the woman in the image above. I won't get into all the details here as you should read it yourself but, it's a wild story of a woman with a regular job and life who has been photographed by dozens of photographers who are big deals in the art world, including Witkin obviously. The twist is in how it all came to be, as she wasn't sought to be a model, but sought photographers she greatly admired to photograph her.

I highly recommend checking this out for not only the oddness of her story but it's an excellent profile in determination, trust and vision. Some of the tales from the photographers are worth the read alone. Ultimately though, you might find yourself wondering if Isabelle Mège is more of an artist herself rather than a quirky woman who wanted to model for people's work she highly admired.

FV

 

FRAN GERARD

Photographed by Mario Casilli and Gene Trindl

I love the retro Playboy Playmates. Of course they were attractive and curvy, as in this photo of Fran Gerard, Miss March from 1967. There's just the kind of everyday woman of it all too that's very alluring. No nips and tucks and those breasts are not a couple of bags of silicone in her chest. Just a natural quality that's even evident in the lighting. No big slick production but it's a fabulous shot nonetheless.

Interestingly, I found this photo on Tumblr and did a quick Google search to find the photographers name, which it turns out was the two guys credited above. I've heard of Casilli but not the other guy and don't know why they're both credited. Maybe they both did some shooting or something. Who knows and that's not the interesting part anyway.

I came across this odd tidbit about Fran Gerard during that search. Apparently she was the first Playmate to ever wear glasses, which I'll admit looks very sexy on her. I got this info from The Eyewear Blog (which I think is more about glasses than naked women) and as you can read in a little more detail here, she was a Playmate at age 18, married some dude who was 37, divorced 7 months later, remarried and died at age 37 in 1985. Although she was an aspiring actress and model, after her Playboy appearance she dropped out of sight. No appearances or public life at all which is odd as women have used Playboy as a springboard for all types of careers throughout it's history.

That's it really. Just a quirky story of a once lovely young lady who I knew nothing about and now is a kind of romantically tragic mystery woman. Life is like that; quick, random and mysterious.

FV

 

CANON EOS M6

I'm not a gear head when it comes to cameras for the most part. I don't really care about specs and all that jazz. Gives me a headache for the most part. But when I do need a new piece of equipment I check to make sure it's gonna do what I need it to.

So this week I bought a Canon EOS M6 and 11-22mm lens to slap on it. I got good deals on the body and lens on Yahoo Auctions here in Japan. Saved a good 30 - 40% than if I'd of gone to one of the big camera stores or Amazon. It's nice gear with the 24MP APS-C CMOS sensor and Digic 7 processor and a nice sturdy metal body. Interchangeable lenses. It's mirrorless, has a rangefinder adapter if you wanna buy one (I don't) and a pretty nice touch screen interface with the right knobs and wheels on top.

The real reason I got it though is it has mic input jack and the back screen flip up straight so you can see yourself and what's in the frame easily. As you probably may have guessed I primarily bought this camera for it's video capabilities, which are adequate for my needs; 1920 x 1080 @ 60p / 35 Mbps, MP4, H.264, AAC or 1920 x 1080 @ 30p / 24 Mbps, MP4, H.264, AAC. 4K wasn't even on my mind. So it's a good little vlogging set up or will be once I get an external mic.

One of my goals this year was to get some decent content up for my gallery's website / YouTube channel. I was using an old Canon Powershot s95 to do artist interviews and it got to be a bit of a pain in the ass with the sound and the fact my zoom got soaked in beer a few years ago and doesn't always work so great (though the image quality is fine). So this was one of those times where I had to do some research and figure out what would work best for me in my budget.

I'm happy with it as of now, which isn't saying much as everything arrived this morning. But all seems to be working fine and I'm excited about shooting some test footage this weekend and brushing up on my use of Premiere. I hope I can format a good tight series with the artists we show at the gallery and maybe even do some creative video work as well.

FV

 

ATAMI

I'm a very big fan of cats. I've had one or more in the apartments I've lived in my whole life, from the time my momma brought be back from the hospital after I popped into the world, up to this very day. I have two very chill anarchistic cats.

Last week, my wife and I took a lil day trip down to a place called Atami. It's about an hour or more by train from where I live in Yokohama. Nice little town on the beach that feels stuck in time somewhere around the late 1960's or early 70's. Pretty famous for a having a large amount of hot springs.

Now, Japan in general, as much as I've seen in the seven years I've lived here, has a lot of stray cats almost everywhere. Atami was no exception. I must have seen at least 8 or  10 of them in the limited area we walked around. Could have been that being so close to the water lots of guys fish and maybe they get fed nicely because of that. Who knows?

The cat pictured above was by far the most interesting of the bunch. He or she was posted up in a phone booth just as a light rain started to fall. I probably took about 50 shots of it but this was my favorite and as is often the case, one of the first shots I took. I didn't open the door or disturb it, aside from circling it for 10 minutes but it was laid back without a care in the world. In fact, all the cats I approached that day were real sociable and friendly. 

Amazing little creatures in my opinion.

FV

 

THE SNAPSHOT

source unknown

You'd be hard pressed to find a bigger fan of old photos of strangers than me. When I lived in San Francisco I'd pick dropped or thrown away photos up off the street. I had a shitload of them that unfortunately got lost along the way.

There's such a purity in the old snapshots. People were either caught off-gaurd and often looked embarrassed or truly spontaneous. Or, they were very carefully posed, often doing their best to look dignified. The photo was a big deal up to about 20 years ago, and especially earlier than that.

And, that's what I love about them. The odd framing, the trust in the friend or lover taking the photo that shines through, a certain reluctance at times that you can almost feel, the pride of a new TV or of the individual.

Cameras were not ubiquitous and the reactions of people to them are noticeably different to me. The subjects photographed that were not people, I can sense the photographer's excitement of whatever it was. And the details. All the amazing details of the past; the AM only radio, the rabbit ear antennas on the TV, the clothes, the cigarettes, the signs. All of it I can gaze at for hours.

Nothing wrong with snapshots today but they are different. I guess one day people will reflect on all our files of of every detail of our days we record now. Or maybe not. It might be boring to see so much information. Time will tell.

But luckily, the internet has brought me to more old snapshots than I could ever have picked up off the streets. And for that, I am grateful.

FV