big john


too much of a good thing

I haven't fallen, but I can get up.

Having too much fun with yet another Zeiss lens - the 35mm f/2 ZE - laying about in the sun after the bloody Briggs & Stratton 5 HP pull start engine wouldn't start.


a view of northwestern

Parents Weekend 2012: who would have thunk I'd be going to a football game? Well, it was only half of one. If we had stayed for another two or three hours to see the end, the Cats might not have lost by 1 point. At least they were leading when we left.


testing...1, 2, 3

Not very rigorous, but I think this pretty effectively demonstrates the usefulness of the Mosaic Engineering Anti-Alias filter in the Canon 7D. Watch this fascinating video to see the difference between using the filter and NOT using the filter, with ordinary household objects.


another example of... oh, never mind

Last week's shoot involved some Time Travel. Much thanks to Ralph Williams for helping to construct the Machine, and Sallah Baloch for consulting on the design. See the Vimeo page for complete credits.


"A Walk"

No one cares how much effort was involved. But I'm here to report that creating moving images hasn't gotten any easier or less time consuming now that we're firmly into the digital age. It might happen on a more accelerated schedule, but the total hours haven't really changed much from the dark ages of film.

Time to kick this shit out the door. This one followed the opposite of the schedule utilized for the previous production.


oh my goodness...

oh my dayum. What a trip. I've finally joined the Darkstone Entertainment crew of rotating video workers. Here's John Johnson's latest creation, an attempt at viral video that is his take on a video that has already gone viral. We shot last night from 7 - 11pm, with me behind the camera, he edited until 6am and had it posted this morning.


cast into the wilderness

The official Deck Before & After are still languishing somewhere in the archives. In the meantime, here's the immediate aftermath of 80 mph winds blowing through the area. This would be the new after.


Russian Ark

That would be the Hermitage, one of the largest and oldest museums in the world, in St. Petersburg, Russia. Founded by Catherine the Great in 1764, the collection consists of nearly three million items. This astounding and revolutionary film is the first to employ no edits, as the camera - piloted by Steadicam operator extraordinaire Tilman Büttner - travels two kilometers through the complex of the museum and the Winter Palace, traversing 300 years of Russian history, observing a cast of hundreds along with thousands of extras. The point is, that this incredible institution is an ark of culture floating on a sea of turmoil and constant change.

Astounding because Mr Büttner carried 77 pounds of Steadicam and camera for about 90 minutes and traversed some 30 rooms that needed to be lit. Revolutionary because it is an entire film in a single take, but the narrative takes place over such a broad period of time. Despite these aspects, and the impressive size of the production in general, non Russians are not likely to be engaged on anything other than a visual level. Snippets of dialogue with historical characters are heard throughout, but engagement does not occur. The camera is too anxious to continue on its tour of this remarkable location.

Alexander Sokurov - dir.

Tilman Büttner - dp/Steadicam; is Steadicam op for Béla Tarr's last film The Turin Horse

primarily a Russian/German co-production



looking up

Despite the pasel of images of the newly completed handrail - constructed at the insistance of insurance officials - here's what I've got to show.

Soon enough we'll get to project before & afters. It reminds me that I read, once upon a time when Andreas Gursky visited Brasilia, he took a picture of the carpet. The buildings didn't excite him much.


enough about you...

While the carpentry projects continue, linger, advancing oh so slowly, but steadily, there are others that present themselves. This guy, Spathiphyllum floribundum,

blossoms only every other year or so, and you don't see the spadix unless you lie on the floor and look up at the plant. The latest idea is a time lapse of one of these blossoms opening. I don't know when it happens, perhaps even during the night. So it's set up in the studio with a one second interval. Tomorrow morning, when I have to clear out the room, should tell whether anything has transpired. Then it's back to the deck, to the final missing component.



Carpentry time, once again. It's something I know how to do. But inevitably there's going to be some maintenance involved. It's no longer a piano - or the box it came in - but might be approaching a boat.

It was a tough day Friday: went to exchange some 5/4 mahogany for lengths that will work much better for the top of the handrail, which required yet another drive to Zion Crossroads. But at least Cody worked out an $8.92 refund.

2 important tools for any construction job

My layout drawing for the convex curve made me fairly confident that I could get the four required pieces out of the expected 1'-1" x 15'-1" board. This did not take into account the inevitable cracks and gouges created by careless lift truck drivers spearing the material with their forks as they move it around the yard. And as inevitable as these defects are, it goes without saying that they always appear at the center of the piece of material, usually in a location that cannot be cut out. In this case I had two curved pieces laid out along the length of the board, so naturally one of the apexes of the curves had to hit on the defect. Nor had I expected that one end of the material would be 13 inches wide and the other would be only 12-1/2. All of this to explain that three of the four pieces were indeed cut to the required size. But the fourth falls off the edge of the board and so may be something like six inches short of the desired length. Oh well, there are only so many things one can take into account, without making an offering to Murphy. I've got enough material to make the complete curve, but the joints may not fall where I wanted them, on support posts.


contemporary art

The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art - Don Thompson, 2008, Palgrave Macmillan

An informative, and ultimately depressing book about art in the 21st century.

How does a work then come to be worth $12 million, or $140 million? This has more to do with the way the contemporary art market has become a competitive high-stakes game, fuelled by great amounts of money and ego. The value of art often has more to do with artist, dealer, or auction-house branding, and with collector ego, than it does with art. The value of one work of art compared to another is in no way related to the time or skill that went into producing it, or even whether anyone else considers it to be great art. The market is driven by high-status auctions and art fairs that become events in their own right, entertainment and public display for the ultra-rich.

Branding has become the most important element in any work's provenance - whether through a collector, a dealer, an auction house, or a museum.

Auction houses have nearly taken over the market for high end art work.

"80% of the art bought from local dealers and local art fairs will never resell for as much as the original purchase price. Never, not a decade later, not ever."

At the end of the book, Thompson, who has lectured on economics at the London School of Economics, offers a few rules:

With the work of western artists, what kind of painting will appreciate most? There are general rules. A portrait of an attractive woman or child will do better than that of an older woman or an unattractive man. An Andy Warhol Orange Marilyn brings twenty times the price of an equal-sized Richard Nixon.

Colors matter...

Bright colors do better than pale colors. Horizontal canvases do better than vertical ones. Nudity sells for more than modesty, and female nudes for much more than male...

Purebred dogs are worth more than mongrels, and racehorses more than cart horses. For paintings that include game birds, the more expensive it is to hunt the bird, the more the bird adds to the value of the painting... There is an even more specific rule, offered by New York dealer David Nash: paintings with cows never do well. Never.

A final rule was contributed by Sotheby's auctioneer Tobias Meyer. Meyer was auctioning a 1972 Bruce Nauman neon work, Run from Fear/Fun from Rear, which referred to an erotic act. When the work was brought in, a voice from the back of the room complained, "Obscenity." Meyer, not known for his use of humor on the rostrum, responded, "Obscenity sells." Often it does not, but for a superstar artist like Jeff Koons or Bruce Nauman, it does. It did.


a maxim you can't use

Apropos what I've been working on for a large educational conglomerate, this is the rule of middlemen everywhere:

minimize financial commitment to/maximize intellectual commitment from Content Creators

maximize financial return from/minimize intellectual content to End Users

= FEC&G (Fuck 'Em Coming & Going)

In fact, it could probably be generalized to all human interaction.


more TMG

Here's what I did for five days back in January, scurrying around in the background.

Video by Brian Wimer


the return - Vozvrashchenie

A Russian film from 2003 that Mike Johnston recommended some time ago, The Return has been on the queue since that initial recommendation. But there it sat amongst hundreds of other titles that have been saved on a whim for whatever reason, but the whim or recommendation forgotten. Thankfully Mike mentioned it again recently as something worthy of watching.

While there is a minor photographic element in the story of two brothers and their returned father who takes them on a motoring trip to go fishing, it's really only a passing glance. It is the photography exhibited throughout the film that is most impressive. The compositions evoke Antonioni and the material Tarkovsky. Vast tracts of water, two imposing towers, the mysterious return of a long missing father, his unknown mission, his severe but loving nature. It's all rather Biblical, but impossible to ignore.

The film won a Golden Lion in Venice in 2003 - the same award that Last Year at Marienbad won in 1961.

Interesting trivia: the film was shot - in Russia - on Kodak rawstock in the early 2000's.

Andrei Zvyagintsev - director

Vladimir Garin - Andrey

Vanya Dobronravov - Ivan

Konstantin Lavronenko - father


end of an era confirmed

It wasn't enough that my local lab should stop developing E6 film materials. Now even Kodak is withdrawing from manufacturing slide films. Thanks to TOP for the heads up. Now there is no choice but to use Fuji. But I'll be damned if I'll use Velvia again, which leaves that hideous emulsion Provia. Looks like I'll be moving to negative films sometime in the future, after my preferred supply of out-of-date Astia runs out.


"The Forgotten Space"

"The Forgotten Space"

Random confluences have come together to suggest the intriguing prospects of a film that was made in 2010 by photographer Allan Sekula and writer/theorist Noël Burch (whose book Theory of Film Practice is a wonderful work of abstraction) called The Forgotten Space. In fact I first read about it here, only a week ago when it opened in New York. There are interviews with the directors at the web site, but the one with Sekula is particularly informative about some of his recent work in Los Angeles - completely outside the dominant film making tradition centered there.

The Forgotten Space follows container cargo aboard ships, barges, trains and trucks, listening to workers, engineers, planners, politicians, and those marginalized by the global transport system. We visit displaced farmers and villagers in Holland and Belgium, underpaid truck drivers in Los Angeles, seafarers aboard mega-ships shuttling between Asia and Europe, and factory workers in China, whose low wages are the fragile key to the whole puzzle. And in Bilbao, we discover the most sophisticated expression of the belief that the maritime economy, and the sea itself, is somehow obsolete.

A range of materials is used: descriptive documentary, interviews, archive stills and footage, clips from old movies. The result is an essayistic, visual documentary about one of the most important processes that affects us today. The Forgotten Space is based on Sekula’s Fish Story, seeking to understand and describe the contemporary maritime world in relation to the complex symbolic legacy of the sea.

Unfortunately, it appears unlikely those of us outside cities will get an opportunity to view the film. Netflik knows nothing about it. But you can watch the trailer on Vimeo. This is the kind of non linear work that I pine to see. Not necessarily simple to watch, but memorable nonetheless.


end of an era

Of course I knew it was coming. But that doesn't make it any easier to deal with. This is the last of my transparency film images to be processed by my local lab. A circuit board in the processing machine has died, and John Stubblefield has decided he doesn't do enough chrome work to justify repairing the machine. I'm assuming he's still doing negative film, since he accepted a sheet of FP4. But I've never been a fan of negative material, much preferring the immediacy of transparency. I can set them on the light table and see the image without having to scan and print a contact sheet. Looks as if I'm going to have to start shipping film out to a lab if I want to continue using my preferred Astia & Ektachrome G, in any format. But especially in 4x5 sheets.

Concurrent with this sad news is the announcement of a new Nikon camera, the D800, which I have mostly no interest in. Looks like another boring black dslr. Nonetheless, it's certain to be imminently more useable in more situations than my fifty year old Linhof Tech IV. On the other hand, I actually enjoy composing an image that is upside down and backwards.

The nails in the coffin are being driven closer to home. Bummer, dude.


too much/not enough

That, in a nutshell, is my problem with photography. Or rather, with my own photography. It's too easy, it's too real. There's too much of the actual in the representation. There is a representation. There's too much mediation, too much observation. I'm looking for something more direct, maybe something unmodified by thought.

It's probably called dance - or theater - or even psychotherapy. Possibly even farming. Or factory work...