lost and found

Summertime and the living is easy. Here's another old photo I found at a flea market many years ago for 25 cents (still written on the back in pencil). Back when 25 cents was really worth something - before a dollar was the new quarter.

Anyway, check this one out. Another one I stare at endlessly. Never ending, like a moebius strip - the two balls and the kid in perfect balance. And look at those knees. She (he?) is carrying a beach ball, but standing on what - another ball, a stone, a World War I mine? That great bathing suit, the joker-like bathing cap, the toes. Taken on a bright sunny day, the focus drops off with the brush in the background, where there seems to be a body of water - maybe even a pool? And to top it off, literally, the uneven black border from the negative's edge.

This is one of my favorite photos.


artistic license

As a Twilight Zone fan who is quite often on the "short list" of those who would love to use my work, but are "on a tight budget", this is the ultimate fanatsy. Getting ripped off is the name of the game in the art world. Either they're using you by paying you nothing, or you're successfully using them by charging high prices for all the years you've been cheated.

So whoever drew this comic knew exactly what they were delivering. Check it out:

It would be so great if the people in my photos could help me collect. Like the sideshow performers at the end of Tod Browning's Freaks, turning she who rips off the midget into a chicken lady. Now that's Artistic License.


out of the past

Speaking of Diane Arbus, she said "A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know." Here is a perfect example - a small old portrait photograph I found at a Flea Market last year, and it's haunted me ever since. What is it about this discarded view of the past that give me such pleasure? I stare at these two women I don't even know and they stare back at me - endlessly.

Garry Winogrand said, " there is nothing as mysterious as a fact clearly described." Lisette Model said "photography is the art of the split second." And Lee Friedlander said, "The pleasures of good photographs are the pleasures of good photographs, whatever the particulars of their makeup."

But who was it that said, "a picture is worth a thousand words"?


Fur What it's Worth - the Diane Arbus movie

I was just wondering what was up with this project. Last summer, there were pix in the Daily News and the NY Post of Nicole Kidman spotted around town dressing down as Diane Arbus for the long awaited & feared (well, by photographers anyway) Hollywood biopic. This may be small potatoes for most of the world. But for photographers it's a big deal - Citizen Kane meets the Decisive Moment. Now, according to a big story in this month's Vanity Fair (photo above by Mary Ellen Mark) it will be coming to a screen near you this November. Well, one can only hope for the best. It has Robert Downey Jr. as...her neighbor???

Arbus died in the summer of 1971. Within 2 years - an amazingly quick turnaround - she had a monster major retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, and an accompanying monograph catalog - perhaps the greatest photo book ever. I was one of those standing on a very long line to see the pix at MOMA in 1973. Their influence on the world of photography can not be understated. Every photographer post 1967 owes her a debt. And I believe that the effect of these photographs on New York City in 1972-73 greatly influenced both the NY Dolls and the soon to be created punk scene at CBGB's. Transvestites, midgets, freaks - gabba gabba we accept you. Arbus, like the Ramones was a big fan of the Todd Browning movie.

So hang on to your cameras, and hope for the best, while I shutter at the thought of Nicole shooting a Jewish Giant at Home With His Parents in the Bronx.


naming names

Well, at least I have the right last name. No way you're going to be remembered as a great photographer without a great last name. Where would Gyula Halasz be without Brassai? Or Arthur Fellig without Weegee?

Like Atget, Aristotle and Cher, Godlis falls into that single surname category common to many of the world's great thinkers.
Guess you've got to be thankful for the little things.


third hand experience

Fenway Park 1975. I'm sitting on the first baseline, and the batter fouls off a pitch behind home plate. I aim my camera the other way and get the whole stadium virtually looking in my direction. This was a lucky break, but also a damn good picture, even for a photography student -which I was.

Cut forward a couple of years and I'm taking my "portfolio" around to galleries, where this one old crankpot Dealer running a well known space in downtown Boston, tells me my work is "nothing special". And the kid in me asks him to elaborate on what he obviously doesn't like.

His response was to pick out this photograph as an example, and told me "the problem with this image is that you're photographing a THIRD HAND EXPERIENCE". As he so smugly explained it - the batter was the first hand experience, the foul ball was the second hand experience, and the crowd watching it was the third hand experience - that's what's wrong with your photograph."

Which left me stunned - the guy was obviously too confused for his own good - and my only response was to turn his fools' logic around and tell the him that he had it ass backwards - my picture was the first hand experience, the ball was the second hand experience and the batter was the third hand experience.

And then he kicked my butt out of there.

You see, good photography has it's own logic.


Nur in der dunkelkammer offnen!

Where have all the good times gone?

Agfa Brovira has been my preferred darkroom paper since the early 70's. The bright orange box with their cool logo was as familiar to me as Corn Flakes or Crackerjacks. Their paper was superb - great black and white tones. I used it to print all my vintage CBGB's night photographs.

And now, gone - real gone. The company went under last December, and for me it was like a death in the family. Hey - Ilford's ok -just not my type, Kodak - I don't miss their paper a bit; dull grey paper in a mustard yellow box.

But Agfa - that was a company with style. No more evident than in the inscription on their label - "NUR IN DER DUNKELKAMMER OFFNEN." Don't open shmuck unless you're in the darkroom. You gotta love how they say that - the darkroom - der dunkelkammer.

So let's all raise a glass to Agfa. An unsung casualty of the digital revolution. Man I'm gonna miss that paper...


hassid vicious

So shoot me. I'm addicted to Hassids. They call me Hassid Vicious. Now Hassidim, now you don't. Come on - they're like cartoon characters. Men in Black dressed up for Black & White photos. Spy vs. Spy.

Hey they sell me all my camera equipment. So there's some kind of kosher karma at play here.

Look here they are at the airport. Running with their luggage. How can I not take their picture? I mean these are the same guys that stop me on Fifth Avenue every spring and fall with their Mitzvah Tanks asking: "Excuse me - are you Jewish?"

Case closed.

gallery wok

Stopped in at Nitpick Gallery to see the current show: "eccentric dreamlike collages from colored black and white prints of multiple negatives, punctuated by verse with charming typos." Somehow it just didn't move me. Maybe if I had been at the opening and met the artist

Everyone told me not to miss the show at Blight Gallery: "color photographs of semi-abstract fields of fragmented imagery."
Now there's an idea whose time will never come. Got on the mailing list though.

This was really on the wall at a photography show I saw last year - "He began to explore the problems of making photographs without a camera." Yeah, that could be a problem.

nyc, sometime last century...

New York City is my beat. The street photography capitol of the world. Atget had his Paris. And Adams had Yosemite. But New York is mine. When fellow photographers come in from out of town, they drool at the opportunity of shooting on Fifth Avenue. A metro card and a roll of tri-x are all I need. I am the King, and all these little people on the streets are my subjects.

The ghosts of Winogrand and Evans look down from the clouds to say - "good job little man." Of course, it's just one of life's cruel little jokes that the best place to shoot 'street work' is the worst place to show it. Big town, you can be so cold.