Monday, March 09, 2015

Selma Redux

This weekend was the 50th anniversary of the civil rights  march across the Edmund Pettus bridge, where demonstrators walked from Selma to Montgomery in those days which seem so far away, yet so near. I was then 18, a freshman at Colorado College, in Colorado Springs which even then was a conservative backwater, nestled in the Rockies.  I'd been shooting pictures for two years, covering much of what was happening at school either for the yearbook, or just for myself.  These negatives, scanned last year, are a little rough: scratched (wet fingers trying to remove as much Photo-flo as possible to dry the film more quickly)  and not exactly washed in a perfectly archival way.  But the key is the image itself, and while I may not have yet become a great photographer, the images of the Selma Silent Sympathy Stand-In -- hundreds of students walking and standing at City Hall, without any noise -- stand the test of time.  One friend reminded me that on the way back to campus, someone started to sing "We Shall Overcome" and quickly was hushed down.  It was truly a Silent protest.

Shot with a Pentax H3v and a 55mm Takumar on Tri-x (probably hand rolled....)  We're just sayin'.... David

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

That Painful World Press Photo Decision

The tumult surrounding the World Press Photo awards for the last couple of weeks has been quite earth-shaking.  An Italian photographer, who had been awarded for "Contemporary Issues" was, finally, disqualified for having mis-labelled where a picture was shot (not in the town of Charleroi which was listed on the entry but 30 miles away in Bruxelles.)  Many of my colleagues have put pen to paper to complain about not only the manner in which this was handled, but to discuss the very basics of how the photojournalism community should act and re-act.  For those of us who try and live by the dictum that "it has to happen on it's own.. and not because we made it happen" - trying to settle the discussion of the winning entry was difficult. By his own admission, the photographer had arranged with his cousin to photograph said cousin having sex in a parked car.  This week, the phrase "and it wasn't his cousin" has taken on a whole new meaning - that of real work, done in real situations, and not fabricated as something that "might have happened."   We are in a tough place.  The credibility of the press generally, and photography in particular is under fire from many quarters.  We do need to try and stand for something.  I'm sure, at the same time, that everyone of us has from time to time skirted on the edge of what was right, and in hind sight, it might be obvious, but at the moment, that clarity is sometimes lacking.  We need to reaffirm what we think is allowed, and how pictures are not only taken, but handled in post, and continue to maintain a standard for our work, doing it ourselves, as surely no one else in society cares as we do.  At the same time I worry that there may be another precedent here of which we need to be extremely careful.  The Mayor of Charleroi wrote a long letter describing how the said photos maligned his city, and that the award should be rescinded as it didn't tell the 'truth' about the town.  Few of us have done work which someone, whether a Mayor or Press officer, or Publicist, or Media Relations person hasn't taken issue with.   In the end, the point of what we do very often is to say  exactly what these folks don't want seen or shown.  Merely pissing off a public official in itself shouldn't be enough to put a good story on the chopping block.  There was a time when many of us felt that annoying someone in power was a pretty good sign we'd done our job.  I hope that in going forward we can try to agree on some kind of standards...especially in post processing... which dont lead to witch hunts and torch bearing midnight raids.  Photography is too important to be left to those who haven't lived in our world.  In a time when everyone with a phone is a photographer, there remains a clear need for a corps of professionals who make great pictures, tell important stories, and show life as it is to the rest of society.  At the moment it sounds as if WPP is interested in moving the discussion along, after this long painful chapter.  Kudos to Bruno Stevens​, Yunghi Kim​, and Kenneth Jarecke​ among others, who felt the need to speak out.  Having been on the jury three times, I can tell you that as a juror, you feel you will never get it right --  your try of course, but you know that someone will always disagree with your choices. So be it.  But going forward I hope that this difficult couple of weeks can serve as a time to really speak of the issues, and try to find some comity amongst editors, contest directors, and most of all, the photographers whose work is where it all comes from.

Have Your Own Email Server?

Here we go again.  The blob I wrote last night is not to be found anywhere.  It's not in the Cloud and David thinks that it's probably in the Fog. We love the concept of “the Fog”. David is working on the promotional material.

What year was it when you first had no trouble writing a new number.  For me it was when we transitioned from 2012 to 2013. What's the point. Who knows? Does everything have to have a point? Ok, the point is that the older you get the easier it is to adjust to change.  Some may disagree and say that the older you get the less flexible a person gets. Let's be honest, Who  cares about “some.” But that's not what I wanted to blob about.

Is there anyone (in the entire world who is over thirty) that doesn’t think time is flying by.  Each year seems to get shorter and we can’t figure out how to stretch the time.  When we’re kids we can’t wait for time to pass so we can be older to vote, drink, or be allowed to go on all the rides on Disney.  It’s a wonder because friends and family who have passed remain so immediate but we can’t remember how long they have been gone. The years pass so quickly it’s unimaginable to think that any of our contemporaries have been gone for 20 years or more.  Yeech!

The thing is there is always something that happens daily that reminds me of those people.  I can hear their voices but when I turn around they are not standing there.  For example, everytime I make coffee I can hear my pal Penn reminding me that you don’t boil the water for coffee. You take it off the fire right before there are bubbles.  My friend Steve would always ask me if the vodka he poured from the Grey Goose bottle was real or had I simply filled the bottle with Smirnoff.  I marked the bottles so he never got the cheap stuff.  Although in taste test the Smirnoff often won.  But of course in those days there was no Tito.  And whenever I ordered something in a restaurant and I was disappointed with my selection, our darling Jeff would say, “How many meals do you think you are going to eat in your lifetime?  This is just a miniscule part of the overall number.”  Basically he was telling me to suck it up, sit down and shut up.  But in the nicest possible way.

There are many more examples.  You probably have had the same experience.  If not then you better make some dear friends.  When you are working in Presidential politics and you only see friends for a short time every four years, keeping track is even more complicated.  But none of this is what I wanted to talk about.

When my friend Pamela Harriman was Ambassador to France an unauthorized bio about her life (which was pretty steamy) was published.  She called and asked me how to respond.  My advice was not to respond at all because that would make it more important than it needed to be.  When we created the Special Events (Ha!) operation during the 1992 Clinton campaign, the chickens that appeared at President Bush events it went unnoticed, until the day that the President talked to the Poultry. At which point the national media looked and talked about the chicken everyday.  And this morning, when Obama responded to the Netanyahu speech, it not only was unnecessary, it elevated Netanyahu and the speech to a place it didn’t need to be.  There is only one more thing.  Hillary Clinton had her own e-mail system.  Anyone who has ever worked in the State Department knows that the clearance process is ridiculous and certainly not timely.  There is a story about when Colin Powell was Sec. of State and the US lost a seat on the UN Human Rights Commission.  The memo he needed to send took so long to be cleared, vetted, and get to him that it was still sitting on someone else’s desk when the critical vote was taken.  Yeah I think I’d have my own e-mail.  We’re just sayin’…Iris

Sunday, March 01, 2015

A Quick Trip to Italy

Guido and David at the Gallery
 with Albert
Cristina with the large format picture of Bob Marley

Guido & Albert
The first time I fell in love with Italy was in Switzerland in 1973. Doesn’t make any sense.  Well, what do I write that does?  We had been at a conference in a small town directly across from the Matterhorn. At breakfast, it was difficult to do anything but breathe and stare.  The air was crisp and cool. The mountain sparkled with sunshine and enormity.  When the conference was over our plan was to travel.  Was there a mention of the fact that we were traveling with an almost two year old child.  No one told us that in most places children were less welcome than dogs.  Which now, that I have a puppy and two adult children, makes incredible sense to me.  But not then.  Here’s what we learned.  France made the most ingenious baby equipment. In Germany, children were never clean enough.  And in the Italian alps, the people liked children and food.  There are so many stories, but this is not what I wanted to blob about.

We returned from Italy on Wednesday having had a glorious few days in the northern part of the country.  David was opening his Marley show in a small elegant gallery in Alba, (the Wall of Sound Gallery)  The trip came together in less than a month thanks to our cousin Joe Oppedisano, and our new friends Guido Harare, Christina  and Albert (the gallery proprietor and his family). Guido is not only a sensational photographer who has spent a lifetime shooting about every music personality on the planet, he is also fun, funny, generous, sensitive and brilliant

Thanks to Guido the trip included a great deal of press, PR and a gallery opening and presentation. As well as unbelievable food in Alba.  A wild web TV host in Bologna ( here’s the link to David’s 3 hour entertaining interview,  Culture, meals and shopping in Milan. (It was the Italy where there was food, culture and duomo’s everywhere).  Our favorite Duomo (church) was Mary Magdaline in Alba.  When it comes to Duomos we prefer the smaller more intimate type.  Our rule:  “one Duomo, then straight to lunch” began 20 years ago. The combination of feeding mind and body turns out to be an absolutely perfect feast.
the vineyards, in the hills above Alba

It was an unexpectedly fantastic few days. That statement deserves an explanation.  Whenever we go to to Italy we know we will never have a bad meal and there will never be a shortage of sights to see or things to do.  But this trip was a last minute working trip.  We truly didn’t know how much time we would have to lay back and just enjoy.  As it turned out, our host and David are so much alike that being with the Harari family was more like a reunion than an introduction. Oh my we did it again, adopted a new family.  

    Anyway, we are home and happy to be here. But we never stop wishing to be back in Italy -- I guess I need to buy a copy of Italian Rosetta Stone for the harvest. We’re just sayin’… Iris
Did we mention that ALBA is the Home of NUTELLA... & the Factory store?