Sunday, June 21

The Rooftops of Paris 5

About a block or so from the Bastille
Sort of across the street from the pictures in my last posting, I found this early morning shot. Gotta' admit that it's captivating. How the hell'd they pull this off. Those are 18th century buildings I think. Their lower floors are discreet as a nun's skirts. But up top?

Anyone able to translate this culturally, historically, and of course linguistically? Blow it up and look carefully at these tags. See the one on the upper left? That's a cartoon cop car - upside down - with "police" in English. There's a 1984 slashed vertically in the center and, well I give up. Gotta' admit this is totally fascinating art (I know Andreas, I'm eating some crow here).

The sunrise was just perfect, like a spotlight on stage. And the palette is eye popping. It's a shame the it was too early to pop into the Café on the first floor. I wonder if the decor is classic French? Look at all the chimneys. And were there... are there... elevators? If oui, then when did they get installed.

So much history piled up here. These are the architectural shots I totally love. The way that builders elbow their way into spaces so that each generation plops its cultural flag along a streetscape, but in the case, a generation got in there with paint!

And I wonder which generation? How old are these graffs? You think 60's? 80s? The fading suggests nothing newer than the 90s but Wudda-I-know? Is this political, or just fun? And at who's expense (see my last post)? Do they add to the somber inheritance of those buildings? Or subtract?

If someone cared, I expect they'd be gone. Yet, how'd they get up there, and how'd they get erased? And would erasing them be a Taliban sort of desecration.

Enquiring minds wanna know.

Saturday, June 20

Paris Chic 4

Model: Marti Armstrong

A grey, damp, chilly parisian winter morning. 

As my friend Andreas Manessinger knows I'm uncomfortable with graffiti. Bur a visit to Pompeii's softened my resistance since that ancient town's walls are covered in the stuff. My disapproval's leaning against an acient... maybe even primal... instinct for humans to scrawl, paint, scratch their presence onto history. How much do graffs differ from the plaques under statues, the etchings onto stone monuments, or for that matter, the carvings dug into tombstones? Is it fine for a minor politician to have his/her name chiseled onto to stone, like the guy who wrote that he made the Partheon left this huge inscription across the top of the portico:"M*AGRIPPA *L* F* COSTERTIVM*FECIT".  Which in English sort of means, "M. AGRIPPA L.F. COSTRTIUM*MADE IT"!

And that differs from tags, how? When it's kid that tags a wall, that's conceit but when old Agrippa does it... 

Okay, there's a place for autographs - but the front of my city home isn't one of them. The "graffiti artist is stealing some of my property value. Theft's theft, huh?Should it necessitate major repair it's Grand Theft.  In the U.S. most municipalities have some sort of laws allowing the protection of personal property from thieves which can trigger (yeah, pun intended) an owner who is legally armed. Now it probably should not come to that especially since a spray can ain't a weapon equivalent to Dirty Harry's Magnum revolver. Still, I'd be cautious about spitting paint onto most private homes today. 

My first trip to Europe decades ago was a major shock... so much graffiti. Rome is a stinking dirty mess of the stuff. So too Holland, Spain, and most recently France. While both Austria and Germany sported less of the stuff, it was still a pox. I guess to avoid the possibility of retaliation, most U.S. graffiti seems to get painted upon public buildings and surfaces.An exception seems to be RR cars that scoated heavily. 

L.A., Baltimore, DC and NYC seem to have the least self respect among American cities I've visited recently. Philly's got bad neighborhoods along with the largest Jersey cities. Generally speaking the smaller the American town, the less scribbling's on walls. Maybe because the taggers are less likely to be anonymous? Amsterdam was the first place that I visited where street markets sold kits filled with small spray cans in color coordinated six and ten packs. These came with shoulder straps so the 'artist' could both access them easily, and run quickly. 

Which brings me back to Paris - which is almost as dingy as Rome. The romance of its reputation eludes me. Why, even as they remodel buildings, they sell facades which cover the remodelers for giant billboards to sell products! Block long and stories high boards  that are a form of graffiti themselves. The crumbling street in the scene above is a major boulevard just off of the Bastille. It is as if Parisians have lost a sense of dignity. 

Much of the city is not merely tacky but lurches toward the vulgar. Odd, since I'd never have equated Parisian tastes with vulgarity. In the sense of style, Parisians have convinced us that they're the gold standard. I'd expected high tailored men, and haute ladies. Nope... that kind of fashion walked the streets of Rome, Vienna, NYC, and Valencia. 

But... But... look how the street rubble works in those portraits of Marty up above. I love the contrast. Hmmmm... 

Parisian blocks have most in common with the ruins of Pompeii. Who'd have thought?

Thursday, June 11

Paris 3

Exercise 3: (Color Management, HDR, Composition)

Bike messenger stops for Parisian winter lunch

Street photography's a hunting experience. You look for game, shoot it, then lug home the trophy to mount. As I wrote in the last post, I'm studying Photoshop. In this exercise I worked on three dimensions of an image:

(1) See the cyan shift in this image. I stole the color map from the art of a movie poster, then worked it into the final image to reinforce winter mood in contrasty morning light.
(2) To peer into shadows and hi lights while giving objects a 3D feeling I employed Photomatix to dig into both shadows and highlights and,
(3) Worked subliminal cubist lighting onto the image. Blow it up and squint to see how both shadows and lights sweep from all directions such that there is no spot which lacks a pathway or line directing eyes toward the messenger's face.

Visual tyranny :-)

Oddly, artists as a group are among the most hostile toward tyranny. Good for them. But yet, they are also control freaks within their scores, frames, plots, and edits. Art is about communication... It's expression reduced to essence. Reduced? How about - compacted?

Artists share thoughts and feelings wrapped in ambiguity. Strip away the ambiguity and they become illustrators. Which isn't so much a title but an insult to many. So art critics and experts make livings by stripping off those outer layers, explaining to the rest of us what great artists mean to say. How they came to say it. And how all of that should influence those who visit the art that the learned analysts are unravelling.

Through their own filters of course.

Wednesday, June 10

Paris 2: Églese Saint-Séverin

Yes - this image is over processed. And your point is? Heh heh...

Églese Saint-Séverin, Paris - Circa. 11th Century

Over the last five weeks I've returned to class. I'm taking 3-4 hour daily on-line Photoshop classes. The application's so immense and while I'd first entered it about 20 years or so ago, my study lacked the discipline necessary to explore huge modules particularly involving color management, frequency separation, actions, channels, Etc.. There are a range of tools, particularly brushes, gradients, and exotic layer management. Yeah, I've read dozens of books, articles, and even specific tutorials. But in each case, I used those texts to overcome  specific problems rather than mastering the nature of how things fit together dynamically.

The creators of PS are stunningly bright. The depth and breadth of their imagination is stupefying. In one sense, I'm learning to accomplishing things I can already do, but in minutes rather than hours. But in another sense I'm discovering pathways for my imagination to explore. 

This isn't easy. There's so much to remember, and memory's not easily mastered anymore. But application's the best way to master anything. Right now the new tools are determining what I'm doing... Soon, I expect, I'll set them to do what I determine. It's the ancient horse/rider thing you see in this and the last post. The beast is galloping now and I'm holding on. By summer's end, the reins will be totally in my hands... 

Um, hope so.

But right now, every project is a chance to experiment. And yeah... Guess that means BIG PROCESSING, huh? I'm like a kid splashing about in the first pool of summer.

Tuesday, June 9


When a feeling speaks for itself, best not to interrupt?