Monday, January 6

Monday Morning • 3:14am

D'jever own a business? Or howzabout becoming a CEO? No, don't mean Apple, or Monsanto. Think "Massey's Plumbing", "Acme Rolled Steel", "Ramco Construction", or "Wendy's Yummy Burgers".  You've got employees. Almost everything you own's tied up in the place. A few times before the economy finally turned around you've foregone your salary but recently sales have spiked. Payroll happens twice a month. It's two days from now. Your sellers have done a decent job and receivables are there. But there's a reason they're called "receivables" and you need payroll cash now! Customers are riding your credit.

The new year's just begun... New laws have clicked into place. The minimum wage's going to leap up almost forty percent. Some nice but unskilled and marginally educated kids you hired last year have just about learned their jobs... but 'just about' means their hard-learned productivity's almost finally covering the old minimum. But that's way short of this new mandated increase. And customers aren't paying you in 30 days, more like 40. So you've got their IOUs, but IOUs won't pay employees... in two days....

Tossing, turning, you wonder.... "Don't politicians realize that a minimum wage is a tax on labor? On the least productive labor? You might make payroll if you forgo your own... maybe. And you'll call your customers to try to wheedle their payments. Sometimes that works, but they'll worry about your business, which won't help sales.

"Don't politicians realize that when you tax something it's more expensive? And that.... that means you can't afford as much of the taxed product or service? Don't they realize that they've made the least talented workers so much more expensive to train? And to carry them while they're being trained? So what? Firings? Will that scare your better workers away? How'll you keep them? By adding 40% to their wages without any corresponding increase in their productivity? OMG!?"

The bed's lumpy: Sheets getting sweat-damp... Two days. "Maybe if you held onto the payroll taxes for a little while?" you wonder. "You could pay them just as soon as... as...But if you're caught???  Your government 'partner' will consider that stealing. Burley men with guns will get dispatched. Labor's a big hunk of your costs. What happens if you jack up prices enough to cover all of this? How much business will you lose? More than the costs?

"Why don't media people reveal that government's taxing the most fragile workers - making them more expensive? Third graders know that when the price of something rises, quantity demanded drops! Maybe it's difficult to make reporters understand something when their own pay-checks depend upon not understanding it?

In just a couple of months those great kids you hired last year will be finally competent and carrying their load. But that was the old load, before the new minimum wage tax on their labor. Even if you can keep the doors open, and raise your prices... Will those kids be that more productive? Is it time to replace them with machines? Where'll you get that money?

"Machines won't take vacations, or family leave," you mutter from the darkness of your bedroom.  "Machines won't take sick days or need terrifyingly expensive health care, OASHA,  FDIC, OSHA, insurance, and retirement benefits.  Even before the new minimum,  a $30,000 a year worker costs you $40,000 with all of these costs - but then their own withheld taxes only let them take about $22,000 home. $40,000 so they can hold onto what? $425 a week? And the replacement machine installed costs $38,000 total - and it'll last what? Five years?

"There's a simple alternative." you realize. "If society wants to encourage work especially among low productivity citizens, deploy a negative income tax. Employers then are subsidized to hire and train new workers and those costs are absorbed by everyone. No subsidy is needed for workers whose household incomes are above poverty levels so a negative income tax targets the least prepared, least productive entrants. More importantly, unlike a mandated minimum wage, its impact does not fall disproportionately upon startup or small businesses, nor does it subsidize higher income households. The problem is that the subsidies would have to come from tax collections which politicians don't want to pay, especially when they can force employers to do it.

"Oh... it's 4 am now... And even with the economy running at peak... Why can't you sleep?"

GEEK STUFF: My Canon 7D found that eye up above on a wall in Belfast. I pulled out that detail and enhanced it a lot in PSCC-2019 until it matched the narrative minimum wage headlines triggered. How many nights did my eyes pop open at 3:14 on dark mornings a couple of days before payroll? Business comes with risk, and profits are the reward for taking it. But the time between investment and profit is not only measured in years, but in payless paydays and sleepless nights for owners. Which is why they're called owners:  they own middle of night fear.

Saturday, January 4

Andreas - 8/2/17, 2:08PM - Vienna

The Photographer/Writer/Philosopher/Publisher Brook Jensen once said, "It is not the photograph that is important, but what it says." In a book I once read Diane Michaels quoted, "We are our feelings."

And what a good photograph says is our feelings. Here's my friend Andreas Manessinger grabbed as we talked on a Viennese square and food court near to (I believe) the city's hauntingly majestic opera house. it was a HOT and sunny Wednesday August afternoon. Yep, the appropriate verb is "grabbed".

We're virtual friends who from time to time actually meet on the phone, Facetime, and twice now in actuality... real space. In a way we're old friends who met in "The Independent Eye" community's website... How long back was that? Dunno... could be (gasp) sixteen years... More? So far, both of our (actual as opposed to virtual) meets have been either in his space (Austria) or his 'neighborhood' (Europe). Once we wandered the streets of Florence, and then again when he guided me through an entire day in Vienna. You can find Andreas' photo site there on the right column. He has the talent to find meaning in things and spaces that continually provoke my imagination. They are visually stunning images yet more importantly, they are each about something. 

His photographs are about something... something that is not photography. 

Which is what continually feeds my appetite for photo-based-art. The photo artist passes along something much more than stunning visuals... They transcend craft to communicate feelings and thoughts - sometimes both. I often write, "Art without wonder is merely craft."

That's the foundation of my belief in this medium. It is independent of musical or sound tracks. Its texts are, unlike cinema, a high wire act. The artist is all alone without the support even of motion. Painters have done this forever. Fine art photographers are their heirs and in a lot of ways their successors. Probably Caravaggio in the late 1500s became the first liberal, crusading photo journalist. And painters owned that profession until in the 1880s Thomas Wedgewood figured out the chemistry and Fox Talbot a couple of decades later tweaked it to make photographed images durable. Developments which led photographers to kidnap photojournalism.

Fine artists were slow to give up their claims until the only markets left to them were in the increasingly abstract transmission of formed feelings. A market that's slowly shifting to photo based artists.

Ansel Adams often said, "There's nothing worse than a sharp photograph of a fuzzy concept." Andreas talent allows him to make laser fine images that cause me to imagine the ideas he presents in extraordinary detail. He sees artistically and has such control over high craft that he communicates right to my feelings. His work triggers that wonder I mentioned above in forms, shapes, palette and points of view that are as uniquely his as, well as were Caravaggio's.

Which brings me to the portrait up there. Portraiture's got to more than describe a moment. It should frame the artist's narrative so the viewer senses a storyline. Look at Andreas... is that not the image of a deeply thoughtful man caught in a serious moment? It's so generous of him to allow me to post this picture. Of course I cannot tell you what to see in this captured moment... But I hope it makes you wonder about its subject's back story.

There's little more an artist can do because... "It is not the photograph that is important, but what it says."

"We are our feelings...."

GEEK STUFF: My usual combo of Canon 7D and its EF-S 17-85mm lens. The light was harsh - crazy contrasty - so I had to wrestle it into shape with PSCC 2019. Oh, and the background was disturbingly busy and in that light - well the depth of field went on forever. So I had to use a technique I'm experimenting with to kick away all of the people, buildings, and vehicles dancing about behind Andreas. Frequently I don't do that in street portraits... making the sense of place part of the story arc. This time they contributed nothing to the moment and the actions of an intelligent man making a serious point. I want to communicate Andreas's perception and charm. Which meant cropping and ordering away the environmental competition.

It's a simple grab shot, right?

Thursday, December 12

1st Snow 12_11_19 • iPhone 11Pro Max

N. Lime St. Lancaster, Pa • 12/11/19
This is an iPhone snap as I left for the gym. First snow dusting w/temps around 39 degrees and little breeze. Age is drug resistant, in fact it's everything resistant, except for the elliptical trainer and weights. Tried the gym's pool but it disconnects me from everything but my mind. Which water totally too isolates. Need the other folks, my buddies in battling decline. We whine together about the weather, the icy streets, the Philly Iggles and Washington.

GEEK STUFF:  I just got an iPhone 11. This is the first picture. Pretty sharp, good tonal range, reasonable color dynamics. The light was actually a bit darker since the sun was only breaking through. I like the way it peers into shadows while holding onto the highlights. My feeling is, it just doesn't feel like a camera that's as serious as the thing's tech specs. Is this photography's future? What's to become of those pros with fifty or sixty pounds of equipment? Well, there' yet a need to lug lights, which won't work well with the iPhone. So perhaps there's still reason not to throw away my Canons?

The mirrorless. cameras are replacing my DSLRs with lighter boxes. But why? For less than the price of a new prosumer body, I get not just an iPhone camera but all the other stuff in that sliver of computer. Plus the whole thing fits in my back pocket.

Problem is, it doesn't make me feel like either a photographer or an artist. That image up there is a snap shot... with all of the information that my Canon 7D Mk II  would have gathered, perhaps even more. Culture shock? Aging? Maybe the solution to this is on the elliptical trainer and in the weight room? Where I can listen to photography blogs through my iPhone.

Saturday, December 7

Daybreak Commute • Florence, Italy

Firenze Fall 6:45am 10/09/07

That Autumn morning demanded a painting, right? I liked the way the ancient colors began to glow as they absorbed a new-day's energy.  

In a way, we're ashamed of epiphany. Instead we like to boast of a solid line of intention. Huh? Well, anyone remember Inspector Jacques  Clouseau from the Pink Panther? Probably not, that movie's from 1963! YIPES! Peter Sellers, once a comic genius, died at just 54 and his bumbling Clouseau made the otherwise bland 50s-like whodunnit flick a classic. 

"You are pro-bab-ly vundering vy ah deed dat, Eh?" he'd bark after a prat-fall or a wall-collision. And his absurd question reverberates each time I marvel at a processing opening. With my cameras, I hunt for conceptual metaphors. Sometimes there's a pre-conception that sets me stalking but during the safari there are unrelated shots which get dropped into a warehouse. Why'd they get flash-frozen into digital boxes? 

They leave me... "Vundering vy ah deed dat". And then, rooting through my boundlessly big bag O' tools, those images get poked and picked at like a boiled lobster. Did Michelangelo sense 'David' in his stone? Or was he hunting for a shapely madonna only to accidentally release Goliath's nemesis? Did he mutter, "What the hell's this?" as he chiseled away marble? 

How much of 'David' was concept, how much epiphany? Would anyone dare ask the maestro, and would he admit the amount of - found - art? When I write an article, I start with a concept, research it, then, as carefully as possible, frame the story I'm going to tell. Ordinarily that process massages the original concept so the story arc's at least minimally different from its origins. The act of writing causes yet further molding so that the final work usually surprises me. 

Was Michelangelo the genius who took an initial concept and rendered it in marble? Or did the process of rendering 'David' reveal epiphanies? Maybe bridge engineers create a final product that is indistinguishable from an architect's concept. Even in such cases, isn't it likely that construction will reveal opportunities? 

The lady-commuter in my image up there caught my attention as I attempted to find an ancient meaning in her street's structures and palettes. But instead what I found in the digital stone was a
sunrise moment quarried from a vein of glimmering jewels. 

Leaving me  muttering, "What the hell's this?" and smiling at a whispered echo... "You are pro-bab-ly vundering vy ah deed dat, Eh?"

Art asks questions... even to the artist. 

GEEK STUFF: Canon 40D, standard lens. Post in PS2019, assist with myriad tools particularly Alien Skin & Topaz, plus custom brushes and actions. 

Sunday, December 1

Mourning After

Fern Bench

The first freeze finished Fall - overnight. There's a whimpery thing about Autumn:  it lacks a happy ending. Spring triggers hope but Fall-fans know it brings scouring squalls: then flash-frozen rubble of summer memories and wintery worry. Yeah... The  mourning after Fall ends is best framed in black, huh?

GEEK STUFF: Nothing special. A Canon 40D grab shot finished in PS2019 with an assist from Exposure 7 and A.I. Gigapixel (plus a texturizing screen mesh). The grey daybreak result is both morn-full and mournful.

And so another still life filled with obvious purpose. But a feeling of medieval palette?

Thursday, November 21

Down Town Abbie

No drama Annie cleans up!

Geek Stuff: Found paper mâché Abbie a dozen years ago and snagged her with my Canon 40D. Lancaster County's home to a score of high-end antique outlets. Dealers and buyers come to Adamstown to  pick stuff for chi-chi city galleries. Estates from all over the northeastern slice of the U.S. consign goodies to weekly auctions. Sometimes I go to photo-bag characters like Abbie along with toys, jewels, and gee-gaws for my inventory of augments. 

Abbie's sellers boasted her resemblance to a well-known monarch. Me? I don't see it. But then, the U.S. doesn't do Royals. Regardless, it struck me that this gal'd make terrific business cards, posters, and other ad gear for a trendy business. 

Downton Abbey wasn't aimed at me, but lots of others, particularly ladies, are delighted with the TV series and movie. So  I'm thinking that Down Town Abbie'll have explosive name recognition, huh? 

Anybody wanna buy their very own franchise? 

Tuesday, November 19

Grab - Puerto Madryn, Argentina Duo

1. Free carousel on the Puerto Madryn, Argentina beach.

So it's possible that art's about memories? That memories are the ultimate filter? 

But memories go goofy. Lots of people, like me, rarely dream in color. Something sucks away everything but shades of grey. Which is like emotional liposuction. Hmmmm.... Invented in 1983, the prefix to the word... "lipo" comes from the Greek word "lipos" for fat.

What's it mean to surgically remove all but various shades of one color? Is only fat gone? Or has the operation become... profound? While I've got color-blind cousins, I see what I call colors. And you do the same, right? So removing all but say, B&W shades strips away...? Is it possible, in any way, to do an accurate picture of anything without some commonly accepted agreement over the identity of say red from green? Green from blue? And all of what our brain defines of every gradation resulting from any possible mixture of RG and B?

Is all black and white representation... illustration... as opposed to say, photography?

Are your non-color dreams photography or illustration? Are your conscious memories, for that matter. photographic? Or are they something else each time you take them out for review? Tried another way... Is the mere act of "remembering" a... in photographic terms... a lossy process? Like jpeg images, they suffer a loss of information each time they are compressed and recompressed, and... 

2. Free carousel on the Puerto Madryn, Argentina beach.

Of course memories are filtered through a lossy screen each time they're examined... and they have a shelf-life problem even in their storage bins. Who can argue that their images are "representational" in any sense in the face of infinite contrary evidence? At best our memories are illustrative. And to the degree that we assemble them to draw conclusions - which after all is what art does - well,,,

Note that word, "draw". We're back to sucking. Huh? To draw is to what? To represent something with tools, words, or such. Or to pull something out. I can draw blood from your vein, draw gold from its vein, or draw a conclusion. But, a conclusion from whom?

Say what? Well do these two images draw any conclusions from you? About what? Or have I drawn conclusions that I'm representing in either one or the other of these images? Representing to whom? Me? You? 

Are we each sucking on the same story vein? Does color liposuction cause us to draw... different conclusions, me with my tools, you with from your own emotional vein? 

Are either of these images illustrations of reality? Or has the lossy process of art sucked away enough of the sculptor's stone that maybe a goofy angel gets released? Sigh... 

Enough questions for a crisp November night? 

Friday, November 15

Summer + Winter - Fall

It's cold outside. 

Summer's green went memory last week and now? Winter stalks don't know they're dead when only last week sun made air green. Summer's a memory, even in summer. But winter's real... hard as a grant tablet. Even in summer, winter's hard. 


GEEK STUFF: That stalk shivered in front of my Canon 7D MkII. It was the day before night flash froze it. And this technique is new to me. I've rendered the image almost entirely with brushes in PSCC in an attempt to place each feeling. 

Flower pictures are hard to understand. It's so hard for an artist to deal with their form, color, line, texture... So hard to let them say anything more than the immensity of what they come to us with. Only the greatest artists can speak through flowers... can find in them a metaphorical doorway to something else. Not something more necessarily, but something other than what they scream into our brains through our eyes. 

Flowers are loud. Thoughts and feelings are subtle. It's easier to change a blinding klieg light than it is to change, bend, influence... the meaning of a flower. Flowers mute the artist.

You ever done a picture-perfect image of a flower? Shown it to someone? Hear them murmur, "How pretty. You are a good photographer." And if you've rendered it in all of its beauty, well you are a good photographer. But if all that an audience sees and feels is flower... You are not an artist. 

Art without wonder is merely craft. Flowers prove that more forcefully than any other subject except... except for babies, dogs, and Hustler centerfolds. 

Sunday, November 10

Working on my Christmas Card....

Um... ChristXmas card... Sorry...

Wuddaya think? Got everything covered here? Wait... did I write Xmas? Darn... Meant to write HOLIDAY card. Now... now I gottit all fixed, huh? Suggestions? Lots of time to get it to the printer... I'm going to mail the things on April 1, that way I won't seem sectarian, y'know? 

Wednesday, October 30

A Lot about a Lot...

Along West Chestnut Street • April 5, 2003
Once upon a time a train ran through it. Here my lens looked north. About two miles to the right... toward the east... the main line of the old Pennsylvania Railroad and now AMTRAK's main line runs east along those nearby tracks to the Atlantic and west to the Pacific. For about 80 years, until 1929, those trains sliced Lancaster City in half. Here's a picture looking northeast of what once stood in that lot up there.

N. Queen St & W. Chestnut streets • Lancaster City Depot c. 1900

When the big smoky engines wormed their passenger and freight across Lancaster's streets, traffic stopped. Lancaster stopped. The 'new' station up by the mainline's been recently restored from it's 1929 shabbiness and the old tracks plucked out of the streets, restitching the city's halves together. Incidentally, that RR station is Pennsylvania's second busiest. And was the set for key scenes in Harrison Ford's Amish movie, Witness.

And after the old depot was razed, until two years ago, stood (??) that lot I'd captured in 2003. Sometime I'll get around to showing the sparkling structure that's been fit into the lots from the Chestnut street curb to behind where that Hertz-signed factory stood. Now the entire street's renewed and filled with period-appropriate new transport, retail, pubs, offices and condos. The gentry's returning to the diverse mix of Lancaster that's constructing new layers atop what archeologists will someday probe. 

You can smell ambition and optimism in the air that once hovered above that shabby 2003 lot.

Monday, October 28

"Why," the old man said, "If you can keep it."

Across The Street From Us • Late November • Lancaster, Pa.

Someone once wrote an essay about Derry, Ireland. It was after the fragile cease fire between Brits and Irish was holding and the bombs, gunsmoke, and carnage that littered the city had sunken into a recent memory place. He called that story, "Reveling In The Ordinary."

It's something we don't do enough. Media likes to find a man with his fangs into a dog. If it bleeds it leads. If anyone's destitute, then that's the lede line, or the headline. Media craves circ, audience, clicks. Many blame that on their source of revenue... advertisers voracious for messaging to the largest markets. And yet, when governments support media, it's still filled with fangs in dogs, bloody sidewalks, and those who cannot - or will not - do for themselves. 

And images like this one? Hey, not cool. Not edgy. Too... yesterday. They're reveling in the ordinary. Won't do... Nope, just not enough... grit. Eh? Sigh...

So we're living in a time of broiling politics, fueled by discontent and eager to smash the whole thing into a zillion chards of tribes to set upon one another and let blood spatter those walks. It's an atomization bomb that brings to mind an old man answering a group outside of Constitution Hall who  were asking what sort of government the framers inside had created. 

"Why," the old man said, "A republic, if you can keep it."

Maybe we can... if perhaps we may once again appreciate and revel in the ordinary?

GEEK STUFF:  Canon 7D MkII, 50mm, post in PSCC. It doesn't take much of a kit to grab a feeling of, well in this case: A merry Christmas time. But the only thing cool about it is... the late November air. Pity, this week I cannot find my edge. 

Wednesday, October 16

OuttaDaGate - Kayak Scramble

A salty inlet • June, 2019
Trigger warning... This tiny essay may distress a swath of readers. Sorry.

Pre-teen boys racing. Families yelping. Girls ready for the next heat. Hot-June summer morning. Squinch your eyes so color streaks against salty air and life is giggling, screaming, joy-filled fun. This is the sort of image these kids will access from their memory storage bins 20, 30, 60 years from now.

As winds of age scour my memories, well... So will I but... um... well... maybe next year?

So we're in an election cycle right now and so many of the candidates seem determined to paint things with an "awful" brush. They explain how we're neck deep in a dystopian pool of cess. Not to worry, they've got plans, strategies, policies that will drain away some of the stinky shit that's stained everything. And yet... Boys and girls play in the sun... colored streaks against salty air and life's giggling, screaming, exciting fun.

Hyperbole's selling all sorts of contention. But that image up there's not grabbed from some legend of a distant time. Unless we've already forgotten the summer that's right now turning to the dazzle of kids wallowing in piles of jewel-colored leaves. Uh-huh there are places where things aren't as charming... I know that. And I confront that in every news story streaming across my monitor.

But maybe... just maybe... a footrace, a ball game, a kayak scramble, a young couple swinging their hands ought to, just on some rare occasion, come out of the media gate?

GEEK STUFF: Canon 7D Mk. II through its EFS 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens. I'd switched on follow-focus spotted on the boat. Post processed in PSCC 2019 to expand the dynamic range then finished in both Topaz Impression together with Alien Skin's Snap Art 4. Oh, Alien Skin's changed their name to Exposure Software.

Monday, October 14

How Many Tecks? Smell-Ography?

Juxtaposition... That's a terrible English word. It has the sound of someone coughing up some spiky mess. JuxT-A-PoSi-TION!!!!! Do the French have words like this? Even an angry Frenchman sounds like he's singing a love song... Oooops, I just checked and that's a French word! How can that be? Well, it's all in the pronunciation I suppose. In French that T's got to be muted. And the TION... ain't SHUN, it's more sensual as their tongues glide over the sition ... to a more graceful see-shown... In French it's a six syllable word while we English speakers compressed it to a harsher five.

Well anyway... As I crafted this Duomo bus stop something began to pique at me... How many technologies are obvious in the image? I count three... (1) the cathedral itself's a big lump of medieval tech, then (2) there's that electric light glowing in the lamp that's popped on until twilight turns to day. Finally (3) the big package of bus that's stopped to intake and outtake passengers. But do we count what's going on behind the screened trellises glommed onto the building? And while the sidewalks seem ancient, how about that road bed. Are the wafting banners woven on ancient looms? I doubt it.

How many "advances" have wandered into this plane over a millennia? Technologies are ideas made whole. They're imaginations we can touch, just as solidly as the Duomo of Florence's walls and windows. My fingers are dancing upon someone's thoughts. Is she or he - the designer of my keypad - still alive? The designers of my software? The imagineers of my typeface, pixels, colors, mice?

And did all of these wonderers ever eat... pizza? Was there a Dominos' parlor on each corner of downtown Firenze in 1296 as they broke ground for that astonishing building? If not Dominos... well were there pizzas then? Same recipe? Anyone there eat New York or Chicago slices? Did Pizza chefs in Old Tyme Rome compete with Pompeii's vacation parlors?

Did Marco Polo's import of pasta sweep the Italian boot by the time the Duomo went up? Imagine, this all might have happened before noodles arrived... Which makes me wonder... what lovely scents wafted through the air  at this bus stop place in 1296. Garlic? Tomatoes? Pizza?

We still have these lumps of tech, but those ancient scents and sounds? Nope. Lost to history. Smell-Ography's yet to be. We can only look at the early evening juxtaposition and wonder what's missing forever, huh?

By the way, is scent a dimension? Would it not bring an additional fullness to my bus stop up there? Hmmmmm....

Sunday, October 13

Cut To The Chaise

Canon G10 processed in PS6

It's election time in the USA. Promises are inflating like a fat guy at a complimentary smorgasbord. Each politico to the mic's piling on more free stuff. Until that ape up there. How's anyone going to top that slogan? How about universal credit cards that have 100% NEGATIVE interest rates? Hell, why stop at 100%...

Hmmmm.... what comes after infinity?

Someone's suggested I call this image, "Don't Cry For Me Socialista". But isn't that show-tune already playing for a while in Caracas: Right? 😁