This Week in Photography Books: Barbara Diener

  Nobody likes a know-it-all. It’s the reason some people hated Barack Obama so much. (Including my own aunts and uncles.) Obama was so confident in his intelligence, so suave in his mojo, that he never really thought to mask either. Some people, insecure though they may be, find that sort of attitude arrogant, and the use of mental acumen as “professorial.” (Despite the fact that being a professor is a high-status job, the term is normally used as a pejorative.) Arsene Wenger, the legendary Arsenal soccer coach, who stepped down recently after 22 years, (it wasn’t voluntary,) was painted with the same brush. With his oversized glasses, big 90’s suits, and weird Gallic accent, he was an easy target. (I still maintain that Sacha Baron Cohen imitated Arsene in “Talladega Nights.”) Beyond the perception of arrogance, the other main irritant is that people don’t like being “lectured.” It’s a subset of reality that people don’t like to be told what to do in general, but they hate being “lectured.” In college, a lecture is a positive experience. It’s where you go to learn, and hang out with friends and colleagues. Lectures are where we build community. As an opinion columnist, (and long-time professor,) I’m always in that place; trying to inform, but not lecture you or get preachy. It’s always best to stop before enough is too much, but knowing there’s a line, and then trying to find it, is tricky. I try to keep the direct-admonitions and from-on-high-proclamations to a minimum, but I don’t avoid them. Today, for instance, I want to go back to that word: community. It’s something many of us crave, and it needs to be watered and nourished when it does spring into being. But man, getting people
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This Week in Photography Books: Philip Trager

  One of our readers sent me a powerful and arresting email today. I’m not going to divulge details, but a man wrote that he’d been deeply affected by the information in Laia Abril’s book last week. I don’t get emails like that often, so props to the sender, but it also ratifies my decision to continue to use this platform to talk about real ideas. Things that matter. Rob encouraged me to write this way back in 2010. (That’s right, I’m celebrating my 8th anniversary next month.) And I’ve stuck by it ever since. Take today’s book, “Photographing Ina,” for instance. It’s odd that I’m reviewing it, as it’s been on my shelf for a couple of years now, still in plastic wrap. It had been sent in a small shipment by Steidl, (a rare occurrence,) and I’d reviewed another by Philip Trager, along with a sister book of NYC images by Richard Sandler. (An NYC double-double back in 2017.) For some reason, I’d never looked at this one. The light hitting the plastic caught my eye, otherwise I would have kept right on past. (I was returning my first choice book to the stack, as it was also by Dewi Lewis, and I didn’t want to repeat publishers back to back.) The cover is pale green, like sun-bleached St Patrick’s day decorations. The image, cropped and vintage, features a young-ish woman with eyes closed OK.
I was curious. The book opens with little warning, and then set of images of a woman in older middle age, who’s photographed in a variety of ways, including mirrors. Are they digital composites, or clever placement of objects in the real world? I guess, (correctly, I later find,) that the woman is Ina Trager, and the photographer is
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This Week in Photography Books: Laia Abril

  Sometimes, in life, people find themselves in what is known as a “no win” situation. Basically, it means you’re fucked.
(No matter what you do.) Take Michael Cohen, for example. I remember the first time I saw him on TV, vociferously defending his boss, Donald J. Trump, in the summer of 2016. “What a clown,” I thought. “A buffoon. A caricature of a wanna-be gangster.” I knew so many guys like that back in Jersey, because the real mob kids didn’t need to front. As we all know, his boss did become President, and it appears Cohen was an actual criminal, not just a Fugazi. (Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t a very good one, as he was so easily caught, once they started looking.) Setting aside one’s personal political beliefs, this is Peak-American-Absurdity right here. Rudy Giuliani, another NYC 80’s player, and formerly “America’s Mayor,” has now inserted himself into the mess, and went from “we’re going go wrap this Mueller investigation up shortly” to incriminating his client on Fox News in two short weeks. Compared to the Scaramucci era, two weeks is practically an eon. But back to Cohen.
The rock, and the hard place. MC is currently facing a long prison sentence, (for campaign finance and potential money laundering violations,) or he has to roll over on Trump, the Number 1 worst thing a fixer can possibly do. It’s a long stint in jail, or turn Rat.
Snitch.
Traitor. Can’t say the guy doesn’t deserve it, but he’s most certainly facing no good options. (And I hate that he gives Jews a bad name.) There are worse situations, though.
Far worse, if you can believe it. Can you imagine being a mother, with cancer, and being told you can’t get an abortion to
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This Week in Photography Books: Matthew Brandt

  Within the African-American community, the idea of reparations is a popular one. (As far as I understand it.) The plan, which calls for a massive payment to be made to all African-American descendants of slaves, is not without precedent, as West Germany paid reparations to Jews after World War II. After hundreds of years of breaking up families, and precluding community from emerging naturally, the actions of Southern Whites are still felt today, and can explain the vast chasm in income inequality that exists. It’s also an idea that gets lots of Conservative White People angry as hell, as it contravenes their sense of “individual responsibility.” Not to mention, money for reparations would clearly come from taxes on all other Americans, including White People. Hopefully, most of us have seen Dave Chapelle’s hilarious skit on Reparations, or the one with Clayton Bigsby, the blind, black white supremacist. Chapelle used humor to both present these ideas, and also slough off any sense that they might happen IRL. Some ideas are too radical to seem possible even in the 21st Century. Short of the US Government dispersing Billions of dollars to try to level an unequal playing field, it is often left to individuals with power to do what they can to boost those who come from less-privileged circumstances. If Diversity Matters, but is hard to achieve without concerted effort, then it makes sense to pay attention to the people who are putting their money where their mouths are. (So to speak.) In this case, I’m thinking of the New York Portfolio Review, which is presented by my editors at the NYT Lens Blog, in conjunction with Photoville’s Laura Roumanos, and hosted by the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in NYC. I attended the event on Saturday,
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This Week in Photography Books: Jo Ann Chaus

  Control is an illusion. Human beings, IMO, see themselves as far more important to the Universe’s ecosystem than we actually are. It explains why we took over Earth, subjugating all other species to our needs. (Seriously, did you see that viral story about the baboons escaping from a Texas research facility by boosting over barrels?) We are far from the only intelligent life form here, yet we act as if we are. Perhaps I’m not telling you anything you didn’t know, but I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, as I work to sublimate my ego. (I’m not trying to get all Buddhist on you, but I have been enjoying the Dalai Lama’s Twitter feed lately.) What could be more 21st Century than the Dalai Lama, and the President of the United States, spreading their ideas around the planet, in real time, via an app created by (likely) stoners in NorCal? Basically, I’m suggesting we’ve reached “Peak Absurdity” in 2018, and it’s time to admit that none of us know what the fuck is going on. Not me.
Not you.
Not anyone.
(Especially not DT Junior. Boy, does that kid seem dim.) Here’s the hard truth: not everything makes sense, and the good guys don’t always win. While that might be a great synopsis of “Westworld” Season 1, it’s also an apt description of our Global times, with authoritarianism on the march in so many places. And that reality is the impetus for today’s book review, as I recently put down “Sweetie & Hansom,” a cool, self-published photobook that showed up in the mail a few months ago, by Jo Ann Chaus. I met Jo Ann at Photo NOLA in December, and we hit it off. As I wrote in my post-review-review, she is a Jewish
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This Week in Photography Books: Jo Ann Chaus

  Control is an illusion. Human beings, IMO, see themselves as far more important to the Universe’s ecosystem than we actually are. It explains why we took over Earth, subjugating all other species to our needs. (Seriously, did you see that viral story about the baboons escaping from a Texas research facility by boosting over barrels?) We are far from the only intelligent life form here, yet we act as if we are. Perhaps I’m not telling you anything you didn’t know, but I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, as I work to sublimate my ego. (I’m not trying to get all Buddhist on you, but I have been enjoying the Dalai Lama’s Twitter feed lately.) What could be more 21st Century than the Dalai Lama, and the President of the United States, spreading their ideas around the planet, in real time, via an app created by (likely) stoners in NorCal? Basically, I’m suggesting we’ve reached “Peak Absurdity” in 2018, and it’s time to admit that none of us know what the fuck is going on. Not me.
Not you.
Not anyone.
(Especially not DT Junior. Boy, does that kid seem dim.) Here’s the hard truth: not everything makes sense, and the good guys don’t always win. While that might be a great synopsis of “Westworld” Season 1, it’s also an apt description of our Global times, with authoritarianism on the march in so many places. And that reality is the impetus for today’s book review, as I recently put down “Sweetie & Hansom,” a cool, self-published photobook that showed up in the mail a few months ago, by Jo Ann Chaus. I met Jo Ann at Photo NOLA in December, and we hit it off. As I wrote in my post-review-review, she is a Jewish
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The Lost Rolls America Archive

  Last week, I said I like to shake things up. And I meant it. So today, we’re going to pivot away from book reviews, and bring you a special feature about the Lost Rolls America Archive, a project led by NYU professor Lauren M. Walsh, and photojournalist Ron Haviv. I wrote a piece about the endeavor for Lens in late 2016, just as it was getting started. The gist is that Fuji offered to develop and scan one roll of lost or forgotten film from anyone in America. All you had to do was dig the film canister out of your couch cushions, or the back of your fridge, and send it in. (Apparently, the archive is now closed.) They sent back the scans, and then each person picked one (or more) of the photos to be included in an archive of lost images from contemporary America. (And occasionally beyond, as you’ll see below.) Now that the Lost Rolls America archive has gathered steam, there are several hundred images posted online, in a database of forgotten moments. Lauren and Ron were kind enough to answer a few questions about the project, and mass-culture-photography in general. They also allowed me to edit the following series for you, as a way of looking for through-lines in the burgeoning archive. There’s an exhibition of images from the LRAA in an airstream in Los Angeles this week, in conjunction with the MOPLA, so if you’re in SoCal, go check it out. (Photo credits: All images copyright Lost Rolls America Archive, and the photographer. The photographers are as follows: Rikki Reich, Ed White, Russel Gontar, Stephen Desroches, Scott Ellerby, Jessica Lipkind, Jeremy Harris, Jonathan Schaefer, Mary Croft, Beth Urpanil, David Burnett, Terry Bliss, Philip Maechling, Orquidea, William Bennett, Beth Urpanil, Nora Continue reading "The Lost Rolls America Archive"

The Lost Rolls America Archive

  Last week, I said I like to shake things up. And I meant it. So today, we’re going to pivot away from book reviews, and bring you a special feature about the Lost Rolls America Archive, a project led by NYU professor Lauren M. Walsh, and photojournalist Ron Haviv. I wrote a piece about the endeavor for Lens in late 2016, just as it was getting started. The gist is that Fuji offered to develop and scan one roll of lost or forgotten film from anyone in America. All you had to do was dig the film canister out of your couch cushions, or the back of your fridge, and send it in. (Apparently, the archive is now closed.) They sent back the scans, and then each person picked one (or more) of the photos to be included in an archive of lost images from contemporary America. (And occasionally beyond, as you’ll see below.) Now that the Lost Rolls America archive has gathered steam, there are several hundred images posted online, in a database of forgotten moments. Lauren and Ron were kind enough to answer a few questions about the project, and mass-culture-photography in general. They also allowed me to edit the following series for you, as a way of looking for through-lines in the burgeoning archive. There’s an exhibition of images from the LRAA in an airstream in Los Angeles this week, in conjunction with the MOPLA, so if you’re in SoCal, go check it out. (Photo credits: All images copyright Lost Rolls America Archive, and the photographer. The photographers are as follows: Rikki Reich, Ed White, Russel Gontar, Stephen Desroches, Scott Ellerby, Jessica Lipkind, Jeremy Harris, Jonathan Schaefer, Mary Croft, Beth Urpanil, David Burnett, Terry Bliss, Philip Maechling, Orquidea, William Bennett, Beth Urpanil, Nora Continue reading "The Lost Rolls America Archive"

This Week in Photography Books: Gabe Wolf

  Getting out of your comfort zone isn’t easy. You’d think it would be, as the phrase has become a parody
of a cliché of an aphorism. I dispense advice here, almost weekly, and pontificate on issues big and small. (Politics. Economics. Art. Racism. War. Movies. Sports. Family.) I’ve found it’s easier to give advice than to take it. Nobody likes to be told what to do, so teaching and inspiring work better without sanctimony. Part of how I try to stay fresh is to force myself to grow and change, even though it’s hard. (Just the other day, I reminded a family member that not doing things, just because they’re hard, is the opposite of the artist mentality.) But with respect to taking my own advice, (which I could be better at,) this week, I accepted help from a friend, when all my traditional instincts were pushing me to figure it out on my own. I’ve had print-head issues lately, and have to make a new portfolio for the NYT Portfolio Review later this month. I was on the verge of paying a fair amount of cash for mediocre machine prints, when my buddy was offering to use his considerable expertise, badass printer, and high-end-Hahnemuhle paper for free. My wife and friend both pointed out that it seemed reasonable and wise to accept his offer. To take the help: better prints, no money. But every part of me, which isn’t used to asking for favors, was trying to find a way out. Then I remembered a comfort zone
is the place where we do what we always do. Our patterns and habits. So I shut up for a moment, thought about it, thanked my friend profusely, and started thinking about some great presents to buy him to
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This Week in Photography Books: Victoria Will

  This is a true story. Back in 2013, almost five years ago, I began writing for the New York Times. Though I’d been blogging for four years by then, it still seemed like a major leap. I remember thinking that people were whispering, can he write in a serious way? Isn’t he just the guy who obsessively talks about himself, and says fuck a lot, and makes jokes? (Obviously, five-years-ago-me thought people actually talked about him. 44-year-old-me knows people are too busy just-getting-by to wonder what I’m doing out here in my horse pasture.) Anyway, it will be five years in May, and I’ve written 45 articles, so I guess it was always going to come around again. I recently sent a pitch to a local magazine, and included a few of my NYT clips. I heard back that they liked the idea, but wondered if I was also able to write in a more light-hearted, whimsical style? After the LOL, I quickly sent them last week’s column. The one with an opening sentence that includes the word shit. I admitted the subject matter was serious, mental illness and darkness and all, but the jokes showed I could handle it with a light touch. I explained that most documentary photo books, which include most of my submissions, often have a heavy socio-political theme. I’ll admit that I’m writing on a Thursday, and my kids are binge-watching on a Kindle Fire in a bedroom nearby, because they don’t have school today. I’m in Full Dad Mode. That’s the context. But the first book I picked up, which I’ll review in a different week, when I’m not on deadline, it was another one with a powerful, political subject matter. And lots and lots of reading. I rarely do this,
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This Week in Photography Books: Roger Ballen

  The last season of “House of Cards” was a bit shit, if I’m being honest. And still, I watched. The main plot premise, (spoiler alert,) was that the Republican nominee for President was working with a social media network to mine and scrape their data, so he could micro-target and manipulate people into voting for him. (Pause.) I swear. I’m not making this up. Those guys wrote it, and of course it seems to have actually happened. In reality. To counter this, the crooked President, Frank Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, used NSA software to do some data mining of his own, so he could counter their highly-unethical program. Kevin Spacey’s performance was probably what kept me glued to the TV for 5 seasons of binge-watching. He’s the kind of actor that everyone loved to watch, for years, as he brought a powerful intelligence to his roles, dating back to his brilliant performance as Keyzer Söze. The master-manipulator-criminal-genius. In “House of Cards,” of course, he murdered, cheated, lied, and was also secretly gay. He played a sociopath with such conviction, it was almost as if he were plumbing the depths of his own psyche. In reality. Of course, now we all know that’s true. According to multiple news reports, which came out in the early part of the #MeToo movement, Kevin Spacey is a lying, raping, pedophile. He appears to be an actual sociopath. In reality. And now we’ll never know how Frank Underwood was meant to meet his fate, as Spacey was rightly fired from his job quicker than DJT can make it through a single Big Mac. (Shout out to Dave Chapelle, as his Kevin Spacey joke in one of his new Netflix specials was much better than anything I can come up with.) To
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This Week in Photography Books: Debi Cornwall

  I’m listening to the hum of the fan beside me. A magenta bag, filled with birthday socks, sits glowing in
the sunlight by the window. Thankfully, I’m free. Free to say what I like in this space each week. (Thanks, Rob.) Free to wear what I’d like, and go where I please. These freedoms come at a cost, as we all know. The United States government, through war and covert (i.e. CIA-led) actions, has undermined freedom, democracy, and sovereignty elsewhere. Countless have died in wars in other places, like Vietnam, or Iraq, or Afghanistan, as we’ve maintained our position at the top of the global economic food chain. Given our original sins, slavery and the genocide of Native America, we shouldn’t be surprised that we also fomented revolution, claimed territory by force, committed assassinations, and installed puppet regimes in foreign countries. (As much as I dislike Vlad Putin, he’s always pointing out that we’ve done the same things he’s accused of…) The Monroe Doctrine was conjured to claim our sphere of influence over this part of the world. We’re seeing a return to that bygone era, (Shout out to Professor Timothy Lomperis, Freshman Year at Duke,) where major powers like the US, Russia and China patrol their own waters, and balance each other out. Add to the list of things nasty things we’ve done in the name of democracy: torture. Yes, in the early years of the War on Terror, George W. Bush had some lawyers, (we’re looking at you John Yoo,) come up with legal justification for “enhanced interrogation” techniques. Including: water boarding, slapping, sleep deprivation, sexual touching, being forced to live in your own shit and piss, no access to light, little activity, hooding, general humiliation, and being shackled in painful positions. I’m
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This Week in Photography Books: Tom Griggs

  Hey guys. Thanks for coming back. After the last couple weeks, with the anger and the sorrow, I wasn’t sure if I’d see you today. You might not realize it, but I always try to keep the balance in mind. If I hit you with some really heavy stuff for a few weeks, then I think it’s time for breather. Lately, I’ve also had the opportunity to alternate male and female photographers each week. Like I said, balance. So today, we’re going to have a really short review. On the off chance you really like the long articles, and want to see them every time, I’ll offer my apologies. Last week, I began making connections between the books that were sent to me by some very talented female photographers. I’m fairly sure I use the word emotional. It’s a tricky word, emotional, and a tricky premise to suggest that women are more emotional than men. It’s often used as a pejorative term, and I should know, as it’s been hurled my way many times. We all have emotions. (That should be blindingly obvious.) But traditionally, men have been less comfortable exploring and understanding their emotional reality. We all know the stereotype of the macho, stoic, heroic, cowboy type. It’s been held up as a model forever, and only recently has “emo” been an acceptable state of mind for certain subsets of the male population. Today’s book, “Herida y Fuente,” was made by in American photographer, Tom Griggs, who’s been living in Colombia for a long time. (Published by Mesaestander) He runs the blog fototazo, and works hard to support Latin American photography. He’s definitely a good guy. But I hadn’t seen his work before this book showed up a few months ago. I finally got to take
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This Week in Photography Books: Nancy Borowick

  IKEA has it all figured out. They rope most of us in with their cheap, stylish furniture. (Everyone loves a good deal, right?) But that’s not enough for IKEA. They throw in Dollar hot dogs, cheap Swedish meatballs, free childcare, and I swear one time I saw a sign for free coffee. It’s a heavy pitch indeed, but it makes sense, as they’re trying to convince people to walk around a space that is at once maze-like and cavernous. (We practically hugged the employee in Denver last time, when she finally showed us a shortcut.) I like to be a student of success, when I can, and have learned a lesson or two from the Swedish behemoth. Most of the time, I try to be funny and/or witty in this part of the column, and then entice you into reading about a photobook. (At least that’s what I tell myself. I’m sure some of you skip right to the book each time.) I never planned to be entertaining, or political, though as last week attests, it’s best to step away from the keyboard when I’m in a bad mood. But there’s nothing funny about the book I read and looked at this morning. It was a completely unique experience in all my years reviewing photo books. I cried the entire time. Not bawling, if I’m being honest, but the tears streamed down my cheeks at a consistent pace, like the lines of Taiwanese people buying toilet paper at the store, when it was announced the prices would soon rise. (Apparently, it led to shortages. Napkins, anyone?) Right, I was writing about crying. I was preparing you for a sad review. So why am I in a decent mood? I guess it’s because excellence makes
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This Week in Photography Books: Mario Lalau

  Sometimes, it feels like the world is run by idiots. It makes sense, when you think about it. Regular people don’t quest for power. They’re too busy trying to get the bills paid, their children fed, and their posts liked on Instagram. It takes a special kind of ego to yearn to control others. (I know there are a few idealistic public servants out there, like former President Obama, but they are certainly the exception to the rule.) Just this morning, for instance, the Taos School system head-honchos refused to cancel classes, despite the massive snowstorm sitting over town. Any fool could’ve looked at the radar and seen what was coming, especially as it began snowing last night. But our town is most definitely run by morons. Instead, they made thousands of people drive on icy, snow-covered roads to get their kids in on time. And then they canceled school an hour later, making everyone repeat the hairy drive a second time. If I hadn’t seen the same scenario play out year after year, I would’ve given them the benefit of the doubt. But they don’t deserve it. Dumb fucks. Few things make me angrier then risking children’s lives for no reason. Of course, one can always pull out an empathy-cheat-sheet to handle the press conference afterwards. Are you kidding me? By now, you’ve all seen the photo of Trump’s tiny hands surrounding a numbered list, required to remind our current president how to talk to children who survived a deadly mass shooting. The last time I wrote about mass shootings, and predicted another with absolute certainty, I actually got a nasty email from one of our readers. Apparently, in the United States of America, dead children are seen as nothing more than collateral damage to an assault
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This Week in Photography Books: Nina Berman

  I’m not feeling very creative at the moment. The sky is gray out my window, and the dreary light is making me lazy. In a perfect world, I’d get back in bed, pull the covers around me tight, and take a big fat nap. But we don’t live in a perfect world. I bitch and complain as much as the next guy, but in general, I’m aware of how good I have it. While life can turn on any given day, I’m healthy, have a beautiful family, and live in a wonderful place. If I feel hunger, I go to the refrigerator and make myself some food. So in the grand scheme of things, I have little to complain about. Living with comfort and security is the root of the American Dream. Without question, we take it for granted. It’s hard not to, as the micro-stresses of daily life add up, and in the aggregate make it difficult to maintain perspective. As artists, we have a built-in stress relief mechanism, as long as we have the energy to use it. I’ve written many times that I taught abused teenagers for 10 years, and was able to see firsthand how creative outlets allowed them to channel the powerful emotions they have, in response to their tragic circumstances. Art is its own form of therapy. I knew my students had undergone horrific situations. As I wasn’t their therapist, I never asked for details. (It didn’t seem appropriate.) My wife, who is a therapist, and works with the same population, has heard frightening stories that would make most people reach for a bottle of whiskey. Or a big fat joint. She doesn’t tell me the details, because she’s not allowed. (It’s all confidential.) So she keeps it inside, and sometimes
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This Week in Photography Books: Nina Berman

  I’m not feeling very creative at the moment. The sky is gray out my window, and the dreary light is making me lazy. In a perfect world, I’d get back in bed, pull the covers around me tight, and take a big fat nap. But we don’t live in a perfect world. I bitch and complain as much as the next guy, but in general, I’m aware of how good I have it. While life can turn on any given day, I’m healthy, have a beautiful family, and live in a wonderful place. If I feel hunger, I go to the refrigerator and make myself some food. So in the grand scheme of things, I have little to complain about. Living with comfort and security is the root of the American Dream. Without question, we take it for granted. It’s hard not to, as the micro-stresses of daily life add up, and in the aggregate make it difficult to maintain perspective. As artists, we have a built-in stress relief mechanism, as long as we have the energy to use it. I’ve written many times that I taught abused teenagers for 10 years, and was able to see firsthand how creative outlets allowed them to channel the powerful emotions they have, in response to their tragic circumstances. Art is its own form of therapy. I knew my students had undergone horrific situations. As I wasn’t their therapist, I never asked for details. (It didn’t seem appropriate.) My wife, who is a therapist, and works with the same population, has heard frightening stories that would make most people reach for a bottle of whiskey. Or a big fat joint. She doesn’t tell me the details, because she’s not allowed. (It’s all confidential.) So she keeps it inside, and sometimes
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This Week in Photography Books: Paul Gaffney

  Any idiot can deny something. It’s takes no effort at all. What could be easier for a lazy person? Here.
I’ll show you. I hereby deny that gravity exists. Even though the book I just dropped fell, and hit the couch, still, I insist there’s no such thing as gravity. Here’s another. I deny that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is an inherently conservative institution, founded by the famously anti-leftist J. Edgar Hoover. Who cares that he assassinated Black Panthers? And that as recently as 2016, we all thought James Comey was a conservative fascist who ruined Hillary Clinton’s chances of getting elected. Now, these stiff-suited-corn-fed-white-boys are suddenly smoking weed with Jerry Brown? It’s ludicrous. But I didn’t mean to get off on a political rant today. Rather, I was thinking about all the people out there who deny that human activity is changing the Earth’s climate patterns. Theoretically, that should not be a political statement. There is vast empirical evidence supporting the idea that gas emissions trap heat within the planet’s atmosphere, which affects different places in different ways. “An Inconvenient Truth,” a movie now almost 12 years old, predicted an increase in the incidence of extreme weather events. In addition, traditional weather patterns were meant to shift as well. Any sentient person can see that in America alone, we’ve been hit with massive floods, hurricanes, droughts, mudslides, and wildfires. (Hell, we even have man-made earthquakes these days too.) Here in the Rocky Mountains, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah are having their worst winter in recent memory. There’s almost no snow at all. (Though here at Taos Ski Valley, our new billionaire owner has certainly been willing to pay for man-made snowmaking. Until the water allotment runs out…) It was so warm in December, January and now
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This Week in Photography Books: Carolyn Marks Blackwood

  I never get homesick. Not for New Jersey.
(Where I’m from.) It never happens. But lately, my home state has crept back into the dark recesses of my consciousness. It began recently enough, when I found myself reading Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography. My son, Theo, was writing his first term paper, and chose Franklin as his subject. I saw the book sitting there, and picked it up out of curiosity, more than anything else. When I read that old Ben first landed in New Jersey at Amboy, not 10 miles from where I grew up, it definitely piqued my curiosity. The book was a bit of a tease, if I’m being honest, because as fascinating as it was to be inside Franklin’s mind, he died writing it, before he got anywhere near the Revolutionary War. The man spent pages and pages describing a system for removing dust from the streets of Philadelphia, but never thought to speed it up so we could hear what he thought of George Washington, or the Revolution in general? Mind-melding with Ben Franklin, straight out of the 18th-century, reminded me of the feeling I had walking the Monmouth Battlefield, or going on school field trips when I was young, and being told that Washington had slept there. At the moment, I’m deep into binge watching an AMC show about the Revolutionary War, with the awkward title of “Turn: Washington’s Spies.” (Seriously, for all the money these people make, nobody thought to come up with a better title?) The show is exceptional, so you certainly have my recommendation to watch it yourself, but it’s also been feeding the odd homesickness as well. (As an aside, the show gives good evidence that the New Jersey/Long Island Island rivalry goes back to the old days,
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The Best Work I Saw at Photo NOLA: Part 2

  If you live long enough, you’ll see all manner of science fiction come to life. Like right now, for instance. My busted hand is healing more slowly than I might like, so I just figured out I can dictate my column on my new-ish computer. It’s blowing my mind. So many of us use technology, these days, to take us out of our everyday world, away from the thoughts that clutter our minds. Whether we’re looking at computers, phones, tablets, watches, or television screens, digital reality transports us away from our mundane lives. I’m getting a rush, at the moment, because I’ve had the same way of writing for the last nine years, (you know, typing…) and it feels like the 21st-century has finally come in earnest to my remote little horse pasture in the Wild West. If you’ve been reading this column for a while, you’ll know there are some themes I return to again and again over the years. One idea I like to consider, from time to time, is the way art functions in the very manner I’m currently discussing technology. Art can expand our minds. Like the perfect psilocybin trip, movies, paintings, books, photographs, (etc.,) help us understand more about the world we inhabit. Art can definitely make us smarter, which is why some people find it so threatening. But art can also make you forget the world. It can wipe your mind clean, and leave you feeling all sorts of emotions, as your neurons blaze with bio-electrical energy. Last year, during my travels, (which I reported on extensively here,) I had a couple of art experiences that transcended what I normally get out of looking at objects on the walls of a museum. Each time, I got swept up in the music. I
Continue reading "The Best Work I Saw at Photo NOLA: Part 2"