A five course mind meal

I hope you are all enjoying 2020. I love this time of year, It’s proven to be a welcoming season of reflection and development so far. Here is some personal work and musings. It’s always fun putting these together. I hope you get inspired. Enjoy!

Personal Project

More from Common Ground. The above image features The Templo de Santa Rosa de Viterbo in Querétaro, Mexico. It opened as a convent in 1752. After the Liberal party won a civil war known as La Reforma in 1860 it was used as a hospital for 100 years. It is now under historical preservation while the convent portion is a college and the Temple holds regular mass.

Common Ground is a 20+ year photographic study of Latino culture.

Films I’m Studying

I’ve been catching up on my watch list over the last few months. And have been focusing on films that were made for under 3 million. I’m reminded of the many conversations I’ve had with friends and other filmmakers whom gripe about Hollywood and how they are only interested in putting out comic book movies and other big budget blockbusters. Well, here is a list of small independent films that in one way or another were made and/or released through Hollywood. These are just the ones I’ve liked or re-watched and they’ve all been released within the last six years. The list is in alphabetical order. Genres and ratings are mixed. Links go to the films IMDB page.

Narrative

Bone Tomahawk 

Camp X-Ray

Columbus

Dear White People

Eighth Grade

Embrace of the Serpent

Flower

Hardcore Henry

Hearts Beat Loud

Hello, My Name is Doris

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

I Origins

Ida

Irreplaceable

It Follows

Moonlight

Mustang

Obvious Child

Palo Alto

Swiss Army Man

The Blue Room

The Diary of a Teenage Girl

The Florida Project

The Lunchbox

The Miseducation of Cameron Post

The Skeleton Twins

Unsane

Upgrade

Documentaries

Antarctica: A year on Ice

Beyond the Brick: A Lego Brickumentary

Photographer That Inspires Me 

Arnold Newman is another photographer who’s work was imprinted upon me when I started studying photography in the 90’s. His portraits are so content rich and intriguing, it makes me wonder why our culture today is so obsessed with the “Headshot.” I suppose they have there place in certain industries. But the environmental portrait, popularized by Newman, is a glorious authentic outlook on the human condition. In comparison the “headshot” just seems like wasted opportunity.

On March 25th, 1996 I was lucky enough to attend a lecture of his. It was sponsored by Canon. I saved the program and here it is.

Video I’m Enjoying

The Look of Parasite made by the Hurlbut Academy is an inspiring breakdown of the visual devices used to evoke specific emotional responses in the storytelling and how these visual ideas started early in the script writing process.

Written by Chris Haigh
Narrated by Ross Papitto
Edited by Dylan K Leong

Quote I’ve Lived By 

A lot of photographers think that if they buy a better camera they’ll be able to take better photographs. A better camera won’t do a thing for you if you don’t have anything in your head or in your heart. – Arnold Newman

November Musings

Here is some personal work and musings. It’s always fun putting these together. I hope you get inspired. Enjoy!

Personal Project

This featured image is from the Common Ground project: A twenty plus year study on Latino culture.

Film I’m Studying

Stalker: The camera starts very close on Stalkers wet leather jacket, it follows a path of jacket buttons until Stalkers dormant face fills the screen. We rest here for a moment as omniscient whispers tell a tale of Kings hiding from God on the day of his return to earth. The camera and the whispers continue, leaving stalkers face to closely examine the shallow depths of a long forgotten aqueduct where corroded remnants of a corrupted civilization rest amongst floating filth. The camera doesn’t stop moving until it sees Stalkers hand, resting on the water like a disfigured pearl, a welcome reprieve from the filth. The camera slowly moves out and cuts.

Of any shot that I’ve seen in Cinema, this is the one that reaches out to me the most. It is often in my thoughts. When I think of visual story telling, of visual poetry, of things I hadn’t seen before. this shot it always there. have a look.

I’ve been fascinated by Tarkovsky’s films since Janos Kovacsi showed us some clips from his first feature Ivan’s Childhood, in a class about working with actors at the North Carolina School of the Arts, School Of Filmmaking. He showed it to us on one of those old square tv’s that get rolled into class on a metal framed cart with squeaky wheels. The clip he showed us was perfect, every element was in perfect harmony with the other. It may of struck me more than any other piece of film ever had, up to that point.

Due to conflicts with Soviet authorities regarding his work, Stalker was Tarkovsky’s last Russian film. His last two; Nostalghia and The Sacrifice were made in Italy and Sweden.

Here are some frame grabs from some of my favorite shots in the film.

Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky
Produced by Aleksandra Demidova
Written by Arkady StrugatskyBoris Strugatsky
Based on Roadside Picnic by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky
Starring Alexander KaidanovskyAnatoly SolonitsynNikolai GrinkoAlisa Freindlich
Music by Eduard Artemyev
Cinematography Alexander Knyazhinsky
Edited by Lyudmila Feiginova
Production Company: Mosfilm
Release date: May 1979
Running time: 161 minutes
Country: Soviet Union
Language: Russian
Budget: 1,000,000 Rubles

Photographer that inspires me

Jerry Uelsmann: I was exposed to Uelsmann in the 90’s when first learning about photography and have been obsessed with his work ever since. Aside from his images, the one thing I remember the most about him is that he had a ritualistic way of working. Every Wednesday, no matter what, he would work in the darkroom. Here is an excerpt from an essay I wrote about him in 2001 for a college assignment.

In search of a way to display his vision, Jerry Uelsmann studied and experimented with different photographic techniques in the early 1960’s. He found that photomontage was the best way for him to express himself and this started a storm of controversy. He was breaking the photographic  tradition in creating surrealistic images by using many different negatives to create one print. Purist photographers said that he was not a photographer.

The essay is titled It’s About The Vision. You can check out the full article along with my research and professors notes in this old PDF.

Article I am enjoying

Walt Whitman on the “Meaning” of Art and How to Best Access the Poetic: This was a quick read that inspired me to read more poetry.

Quote I am pondering

Art is by nature aristocratic, and naturally selective in its effect on the audience. For even in its ‘collective’ manifestations, like theatre or cinema, its effect is bound up with the intimate emotions of each person who comes into contact with the work. The more the individual is traumatised and gripped by those emotions, the more significant a place will the work have in his experience.- Andrei Tarkovsky

Stillness

Here is some personal work and musings. It’s always fun putting these together. I hope you get inspired. Enjoy!

Personal Project

This featured image is from the Common Ground project: Locals in Guanajuato, Mexico discuss News and Politics⁠ over coffee. Thank you @biomimi_healingspaces for the beautiful comment on this image via instagram; “the action of stillness.” I love the irony.

Film I’m Studying

Non-Fiction Directed by Olivier Assayas. I usually don’t like non-visual films. In cinema we write with light, not words. Dialog is merely supplemental. So why am I so interested in a film that Rolling Stone Magazine describes as “Talk. Talk. Talk.” and Assayas himself says “this movie’s explicitly nonvisual. I never saw it as very flattering in terms of mise en scène.”

It’s the evocative duality that attracts me, both thematically and aesthetically. While their action is primarily to be in stillness, there is great turmoil inside each character as they seek refuge in salons, cafes, bedrooms, living rooms and office lounges indulging in french food, wine, cigarettes, love making and intellectual stimuli. Their conversations run the gamut but most often rest on anxieties over new technological trends in the writing and publishing industry. An allegory on the state of affairs in Assaya’s own industry.

With DP Yorick Le Saux, his use of super 16mm and flexible diffused light is a nostalgic homage to the arthouse spirit of French New Wave in the 50’s and 60’s. However here, at times it feels out of place, as if self aware that it’s time to embrace something new. Assayas and Le Saux were listening and they shot the closing scenes in 35mm amidst the warm embrace of a late day sun.

Looking at this film amongst Assayas filmography, it appears to be a very personal film for the director. It’s almost as if he is accounting for his own transition into purely constructive cinema starting with Something in the Air, and fulfilled by Clouds of Sils Maria and Personal Shopper.

Production companies: CG Cinema
U.S. Distributor: Sundance Selects
Writer-director: Olivier Assayas
Cast: Guillaume CanetJuliette BinocheVincent MacaigneChrista TheretNora HamzawiPascal Greggory
Producers: Charles GillibertOlivier Pere
Executive producers: Sylvie Barthet
Director of photography: Yorick Le Saux
Editor: Simon Jacquet
Production designer: Francois-Renaud Labarthe
Casting: Antoinette Boulat

Photographer that inspires me

Edward Weston: After WWII a purist approach to Photography was advocated by photojournalists and dominated by Edward Weston and Ansel Adams. They preached what Adam’s called “previsualization”: the full realization of the image at the moment of exposure. In their point of view any post tampering with the negative was anathema. Weston’s widely exhibited prints were unmanipulated or “straight” completely free of embellishing handiwork.

He was focused primarily on form rather than the recording of events, an approach more akin to painting rather than documenting. His goal was to reveal the significance of his subject without providing any context or reference of time. He called it revelation of the subject. Inspired by nature his subjects were almost exclusively organic. Nudes, vegetables and rock formations frequent his work and share intertwining visual themes as they are posed, placed or found in stillness.

Blog series I am enjoying

Wait But Why: The Story of Us. This is a trump era inspired thesis on human behavior. A concept for how the primitive mind, the higher mind and belief systems intertwine and compete with each-other is particularly thought provoking.

Quote I am pondering

Photography suits the temper of this age – of active bodies and minds. It is a perfect medium for one whose mind is teeming with ideas, imagery, for a prolific worker who would be slowed down by painting or sculpting, for one who sees quickly and acts decisively, accurately. – Edward Weston

September Musings

In response to your feedback here is some personal work and musings. It’s been fun putting this one together and I hope you enjoy it.

The Common Ground Instagram Feed –

Common Ground is a personal study of Latino people and culture. It’s an ongoing photography project I’ve been working on for over 20 years. The selection above was the most liked last week. It was captured at Plaza De Los Angeles in Guanajuato, Mexico.

Film I’m Studying-

Something in the AirI have been watching a lot of Olivier Assayas films lately. This one seems to initiate a stylistic pivot in the Directors career. His earlier works are shot in a constructive cine verité language for the sake of economy, immediacy and authenticity. This film moves away from cine verité and more into a constructive and fragmented cinema language that invokes a more dreamlike atmosphere including sequences that are purely poetic. It’s nearly plotless structure reminds me of David Gordon Green’s George Washington. This was David’s first feature film and his budget was something like $35,000. He wrote the film so that none of the scenes depended on the other. This allowed him to accommodate the budget by cutting scenes as necessary during production without compromising the story.

Select Collaborators
Cinematographer Eric Gautier
Editor Luc Barnier
Production Designer François-Renaud Labarthe
Producers Charles GillibertNathanaël Karmitz
Sound Editor Aude Baudasse
Sound Mixer Olivier Goinard
Colorist Isabelle Julien

Photography that impacts me –

Sebastiao Salgado. No other photographer has so fully realized how tragic, diverse and wonderful it is to be a human being on this planet. Wim Wenders exquisitely portrays Salgado’s life and career in one of my favorite documentaries, Salt of the Earth.

Book I’m Reading-

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewsky is a challenging read. There are a lot of things going on; subplots, references and commentary are explored in lengthy and overwhelming footnotes. Opening this book is almost like learning to read again. I’ve had to stop reading the footnotes in order to make progress with the main plot. As characters plunge into darkness, the pages become cinematic voids, sparsely printed text on nearly blank pages and other unconventional formatting make this more than just a masterful page turner, it puts your mind to work and forces the reader to accept the mystery that is this book.