November-December 2014 … The Global Online Magazine of Arts, Information & Entertainment … Volume 10, Number 6
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Posts from — April 2011

Politics/An Informed Citizenry

When Ignorance Isn’t Bliss

… you can always try education

By James Palombo


This edition has to do with a project I’ve found myself involved with here in Mexico. Interestingly however, the project is not really about Mexico. In fact it is about our country and what can be perceived as our ‘civic depression.’ In order to clarify what has transpired in a  simple way, I offer the following article that will appear in the April 8 print of San Miguel de Allende’s Atencion newspaper. It explains to some extent the how and why of what’s happening. I should also add that San Miguel has a relatively large ex-pat community which helps explain the implied interest. After reading the article, I trust you will then proceed to our new website — www.cicorg.com — which, as indicated in the article, references more of the substance of what is actually at point.

As always, the hope is that you will read through what is presented, think on it a bit, and then offer some thoughts/observations of your own. And certainly, should you wish to be more involved in what we perceive as a significant (albeit small and grass-roots) effort, then by all means let us know. After all, we cannot escape the fact that despite our differences regarding the American experiment, we are all in this together.

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CIC Launches in San Miguel

By Frank J. Gaydos

In November of 2010, James Palombo presented a discussion at the Literary Sala based on his last book, “Criminal to Critic: Reflections Amid the American Experiment” (Rowman and Littlefield Publishers). The book relates his experiences as he transitions from criminal and convict to social worker, professor, world traveler and writer. In the context of his story, significant concerns related to political, economic and social America are raised.

Palombo’s story itself is certainly most interesting.  But what caught the attention of several people at the Sala discussion was his point that the American public seems to be in a ‘civic depression’ – a state of affairs caused primarily by a lack of understanding of the ideological principles that frame the nature of the U.S. political system  and those of major countries throughout the world.

When it comes to understanding the tenets of liberal and conservative logics and how they relate to the concepts of capitalism and democracy, and competing concepts such as socialism and communism, “we are generally in the dark” says Mr. Palombo.  The end result is that without open discussion and dialogue in our educational institutions, it’s extremely difficult to find solutions to our current national and international concerns as well as determine future options.

It was from this “civic depression” notion that the Campaign for an Informed Citizenry was developed. In essence, it occurred to individuals at the Sala that Mr. Palombo’s thoughts should be extended to a broader audience.  As a result, an Advisory Committee of concerned U.S. citizens living in San Miguel was formed and the website (www.cicorg.com) was developed.

The CIC is in the process of creating a U.S. university tour, to begin in the Fall of 2011, based on the synergy of the book and the ideas/people attached to the Campaign.  Our hope is to achieve a more open, clear and non-partisan dialogue regarding the ideological concerns and differences that are of major importance in today’s rapidly changing world.

Please join us on April 12, at 5 to 7 PM at the Biblioteca Teatro Santa Ana for a presentation/discussion regarding Mr. Palombo’s book and the new CIC organization.  Many of us are ex-pats, but we still have family, social and economic ties to the United States and it’s important for all of us to participate in efforts directed at helping our young country in these most difficult and trying times.

The “American experiment” must continue to grow and evolve and the direction depends on “an informed citizenry.”

 

About Frank Gaydos:
Frank Gaydos is a retired organization/management development consultant to energy industries and the Department of Energy (DOE). He is on the advisory board of CIC.

* * *

The following thoughts appear to be related to any discussion developing from the issues at hand, so please include them in terms of your overall analysis of the material presented.

Particularly in terms of the Campaign for an Informed Citizenry website, there is an implication of the lack of public participation in terms of ideological dialogue.  As indicated this may be due to any one of the following or a combination of all:  public apathy; a sense of powerlessness; some form of “always being number one” delusion; the elements of human nature. The CIC suggestion is that education may be our only way out. If nothing else, it will help us in sorting through our assumptions about what may be at the center of our public concerns.

That being said, let me add a few other considerations. Given my experiences at micro, mid and macro level social issues, it has become apparent that when someone comes along who seeks to investigate and explain what lies hidden or under-realized in any traditional way of thinking/doing, the disturbing and uncomfortable picture painted often makes the people who are included in that same picture, almost in a defensive posture, point an accusing finger at the painter himself. I would suggest that if you feel you might be behaving in this way, consider that one should take heed of any genuine experience, especially in that we can no longer afford not to listen, even if it means having to think and feel in ways that are unfamiliar.

A second consideration has to do with ideologies themselves. For a good number of years, and certainly over the course of my lifetime, our country has led the way over the mastery of ‘things.’ This certainly doesn’t make us any better or worse than any other society, and has in fact fed us quite nicely on a variety of levels. But it doesn’t take much to realize that there is a new ‘will to power’ appearing in the world, spearheaded by China and existing throughout a great portion of the world. (Think of Cuba, the Americas other than the U.S., Africa and the Middle East.) In essence, this is a challenge to U.S. processes and particularly to our ‘business of politics.’ (Given the developments in China alone, particularly with its most intriguing mix of communism and capitalism, and considering the dynamic of dialects, one can legitimately ask:  “Is communism really dead?” An answer may be: “No more than democracy!”)

Now this consideration is noted not to offer any value as to which ideological frame may be better or worse. Instead, what is suggested is what is on point with the CIC – that ideological education is a must in order to grasp what is going on in and around our world. In short, power and politics do not stand still, and it should be our mandate to understand the varying pieces that continue to feed the motion.

— JP


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thePHOTOGRAPHYspot

©Chuck Haupt

Something has to be said for those stately steel gray skies. Amazing how you can capture the layers in the sky being reflected on the surface of the water. This one is on the coast of Maine.

Chuck Haupt is photo editor of Ragazine. You can visit his blog at www.chuckhaupt.com/blog.

For thePHOTOGRAPHYspot submissions, please see guidelines at ragazine.cc/submissions/

April 30, 2011   Comments Off on Politics/An Informed Citizenry

Michael Eastman/Photography

©Michael Eastman

“There is no substitute for working.

None.”

An Interview with Michael Eastman

by Mike Foldes

Eastman

Michael Eastman’s photography captures the imagination in much the way it captures the essence of it subjects, merging the two in a surreal admixture of self and other. The current exhibition of meticulously produced images at Barry Friedman Ltd. Gallery, taken on Eastman’s fourth (and most recent) trip to Cuba in 2010, gives evidence: Rooms, facades, streets, all fade against memory when viewing the saturated color and play of light in monumental prints, as if to say, “This is what was, as well as what is.”

Los Angeles Times Art Critic, Leah Ollman, writes, “Walker Evans’ legacy is evident throughout Eastman’s work: a love of the vernacular, a consistent, frontal approach, and a fondness for … time and neglect.”

Michael Eastman is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin. He has been a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Grant. His photographs are in the collections of Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Art Institute of Chicago, Los Angeles County Museum, San Francisco Museum of Art, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, St. Louis Museum of Art, and the International Center for Photography, New York, among others.

The following interview was conducted via an e-mail exchange in March of 2011.

Q: How did you happen to gravitate to photography?

ME: Photography’s immediacy.

Q: What was your first camera?

ME: Nikon

Q: And what do you use today?

ME: I still use film, my camera for architecture is a Cambi from Denmark. It’s a 4×5 view camera, and also, I use old 500C Hasselblads. I still love a square.

Q: How much lighting equipment do you carry around with you? Your photographs have a remarkable intensity and  revealing of detail that seems hard to capture with natural light alone.

ME: I do not use lighting equipment.  All my photographs are made with natural light. By scanning my negatives myself and using Photoshop as my digital darkroom,  I am able to make prints that I never could have made with traditional methods. The amount of control is unmatched.

Q: In your Havana series, what time of day were most of the photographs taken? Everything appears to be very well lit.  Are these ‘long’ exposures?

ME: Photographs were made all during the day.  No particular time of day. Yes, fairly long exposures.

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Michael Eastman/Havana 2010

Volume 7 No 2.5 April 2011

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View larger photos from the gallery please enter the FS button.

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Q: You say “Fairly long.” Can you give an example using, say, the following staircase image:

ME: 30 to 60 seconds at F22. Very low light …

Q: Of the hundreds of photographs on your own and other websites, and in your books, humans are conspicuous by their absence. Some of the settings give the flavor of life as we think we’ll know it after everyone else is gone but us – take that in the imperial singular. Did you ever photograph people, and if so, when did you stop?

ME: When I photographed commercially, I only photographed people. Real people doing real things. Very documentary.

In my fine art work, I am more interested in finding places to photograph that are full of evidence of human activity but without the specific people that inhabit the places.  These photographs are portraits of the people without the people in it.  Through inference, we tend to “create” the portrait from what is in the room and from our own personal experiences.  I feel successful when my interiors feel like someone has just left the space or is about to enter.   Almost like a stage set.

Q: Do you work with assistants, or is all the setup and digital darkroom work and printing handled by you?

ME: I do not work with assistants.  I photograph alone and print alone.  When I first began to photograph, there seemed to be many voices in my head. Imaginary critics telling me what to do, What not to do. Voices of parents wondering what I was doing with my life and why was I wasting my time with a camera, etcetera. Over the years, the only voice in my head is mine. The only one I am trying to please is me. I think this is what people mean when they say finding one’s voice. I try to find places that speak to me and one needs silence to hear it. That’s why I photograph alone. No interferences. No noise. No distractions. In the beginning my voice was very weak and very hard to hear. Now, it’s the only one up there.

Q: Your images are “huge”. What kind of printer do you use? Any special inks?

ME: The prints are six feet by eight feet. No ink. They’re not ink jet. They are conventional chromogenic prints (C Prints) exposed with a light jet.

Q: How do you happen to live in St. Louis? Are you originally from the Midwest?

ME: Saint Louis is where I am from. Where one is based has very little effect on what one accomplishes. It has been an advantage to be an outsider.  It is easy to get lost by being overexposed. And it easy to get lost in trying too much to advance one’s career.  The best thing one can do for one’s career is to continue to make better photographs. If your work gets better, you will get opportunities.  That is all you have control over.

Q: Do you still take commissions?

ME: Not really, although I still am open to collaborating.  Art is very singular activity. Whenever I have an opportunity to collaborate with others I respect, I am interested in exploring that opportunity.

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View larger photos from the gallery please enter the FS button.

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Q: What or where would you like to shoot that you haven’t, yet?

ME: Nothing specific.  I just want to continue to look, make better photographs and grow both as an artist and as a person. Those two things have much more in common than one might think.

Q: Do you enjoy teaching? And even if you don’t, what advice – other than find your own voice – would you offer the aspiring artist/photographer?

ME: I do not teach, although someday I would like the opportunity.  Currently I keep busy with my own work. I like to stay busy. I am a bit compulsive that way; if I was growing up today, I probably would be on a Ritalin™ drip. I believe an artist grows through working. I have learned mostly from my own photographs, both the ones that work and probably even more from the ones that do not work.  Editing is so important. Essential. And I have learned so much from just looking at prints. One has to be driven. There is no substitute for working. None.

Q: If you were to ask yourself a question, as an interviewer, what would it be, and what would be the answer?

ME: How did you succeed?

I think one needs to be a bit in denial, especially in the beginning. You have to believe you are better than you are. And still be ready to respond positively when you face rejection. Which I have to do all the time.  Still do. You have to keep making photographs even when you doubt, especially when you doubt. And you want your photographs to have more and more levels of ideas.  More is more. The only thing I have ever had control of was my work. The better it gets, the more I have achieved.

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For more images and information about Michael Eastman, visit:
http://www.eastmanimages.com/

The Michael Eastman show at Barry Friedman Ltd. runs through April 30, 2011. The gallery is located at 515 West 26th Street, New York, New York 10001.
http://www.barryfriedman.com/

April 2, 2011   Comments Off on Michael Eastman/Photography