Posts Tagged ‘Photography’

Shooting the Tube

Thursday, October 9th, 2014
LeRoy Grannis, 1969

LeRoy Grannis, 1969

There is a huge difference between a dull photograph of Yosemite Valley and an Ansel Adams photo. Adams didn’t photograph Yosemite Valley, he shot the weather in the valley.

In the same way, there is a lot of bad surfing photography. It’s the same shot over and over, someone tube-riding shot from below. LeRoy Grannis‘ photos, however, are good, really good, surfing photos. They are not the same shot over and over. Beside the obvious issues of lighting, composition, color, and content, Grannis’ images work because they are not photos of surfing. He photographs the people surfing. The images are about culture and community. They objectively depict the surf community in the 1960s and 70s. This separates the work from traditional sports photography. The action is the backdrop to the individuals in the frame.

They also work because everyone is super groovy, even the elderly spectators with bitchin’ sunglasses.

153 18 16 13 12 10 9 7 4 2 8 1965

Carleton Watkins, Yosemite Valley, 1881

Carleton Watkins, Yosemite Valley, 1881

Ansel Adams, Yosemite Valley, 1942

Ansel Adams, Yosemite Valley, 1942


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I’m Old Fashioned

Thursday, March 20th, 2014
Metropolitan Baseball Nine Team in 1882

Metropolitan Baseball Nine Team in 1882

I have a saying about students who refuse to listen to any criticism or advice, either from myself or other students, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t beat it to death once it’s there.” Unfortunately, like many of my sayings, this is out of date. I asked Nathan in my office if the tires on his car, which are very thin, make it seem like riding in a horse-drawn buggy. Noreen suggested that few people spend time riding in a buggy, that I was again, out of touch.

I was pleased that many of you, and a nice article for Fast Company liked my Complaint poster for the Wolfsonian, or as I prefer to call it, Hate in Salmon Pink. If you look closely, you’ll find several cameo appearances in here: Kim Novak in Vertigo, Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant, Truman Capote, the flight attendant from 2001, even some of my trendy neighbors in Los Feliz, or as I now call it, “BBB: Beards, Bangs, and Beanies.”  Here again, I was told my cultural references were out of date.

Recently, however, I found some wonderful images of baseball teams for my guest bathroom. Yes, wrong time frame.

University of Michigan, baseball team, 1888

University of Michigan, baseball team, 1888

University of Michigan, baseball team, 1886

University of Michigan, baseball team, 1886

The Accidental Totem

Thursday, February 13th, 2014
Slide 22

Slide 22


Before people could take hundreds go photos a day without a care in the world, there was a time when every image counted. The prints and slides cost money. Each one, really. Consequently, people kept every print or slide, regardless of the quality. I recently converted a batch of family slides to a digital format. When I began to organize them, I found that my favorites were the odd photos that seemed to have no purpose. These were the accidents. Either the camera moved, or the subjects didn’t cooperate, or they simply seem to be of odd things like a bush. But, they were costly, so nobody threw any out. And now, I find that I cannot put them in the trash either.



box-2-slide-56 slide-026box-2-slide-21 box-2-slide-69 423-b 5b

Sweeter than Sweet

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Conniff Up_Up_And_Away

I truly think I’m losing my mind. Yesterday, I stumbled across the Ray Conniff Singers. Of course, I have a few Ray Conniff albums. Who doesn’t? But I never knew about the singers. First, the album covers are a symphony of blurry women. Each cover employees the lovely gauze filter that was popular for high school senior portraits when I was eighteen. I think it’s time this style returns to fashion. I don’t know why everyone is blurry. I understand watching Dynasty and the screen goes extremely soft when Joan Collins appears. The blurry effect is a good way to hide old age. Nobody would guess she isn’t twenty-two. The Ray Conniff album women are young, so that doesn’t apply. Perhaps they were embarrassed and requested a soft focus for recognition issues.

Second, the music. I thought I knew sweet and saccharine. I consider myself rather an aficionado of square and unhip, but this music transcends even my expertise. Their rendition of Up, Up, and Away is alarmingly nice and happy. It’s truly sickening and could drive sane people to torture. It is, however, a wonderful tool with teenagers. If you have one, or two, play this in the car when driving them around. Insist on singing along if friends are there also. This is a sure fire way to help any teen step away from the dark side and become pleasant.




The Still Room of Quiet

Monday, August 6th, 2012

I'm going to the bathroom to slit my wrists for some excitement

I like to think of the 1950s and early 60s as some kind of wonderful “Pleasantville” experience. I imagine I’d wear my letterman’s jacket, do well in school, and come home in time for cookies, milk, and an early bedtime. It would all be so well ordered and clear. Recently, I found a box of slides at my grandparents’ house. I sent it out to be digitized and was rather alarmed when I looked at them on screen. They must have been taken around 1963. There is an image of President Kennedy’s funeral on the television. Some of the photos are at my great grandparents’ anniversary party. Others are at an unknown social event.

The upside is the television tray usage. I still have those TV trays. I use them at home with family, but didn’t realize they were appropriate for a party. Now I see how handy they can be. The downside is the subtext in every image of restrained frustration. Nobody looks comfortable. Everyone looks like they could use a stiff martini. I imagine the polite chatter, “Bob, how’s your golf game these days,” “Betty, I loved the coffee cake,” “Could you be more proud of Sherman, valedictorian?” But I’ve seen enough movies to know that everyone goes home drinks too much, cries, and screams. I hope. Otherwise there’s a whole lot o’ suppressed issues here.

This is a glimpse into the reality of the late 1950s. There was no room for differences or individuality. God forbid someone was African-American, Asian, gay, or just a little odd. Somehow this seems obvious on an episode of American Experience, but these slides made it real for me. It clarified why, several years later, my parents dropped out and moved to the Haight. And why there was so much tension between my parents and my grandparents, and I was somewhere in the middle.

Russell and LaPrele Adams, 1962

Good TV tray use, 1962

This party is out of control!

Adams and Jeffs family, 1960

My Jeffs cousins, 1960

More bored and uptight white people, 1959

JFK funeral on TV, 1963