Monthly Archives: March 2011

Frank Capa-Smith has been called “The-greatest-photojournalist-the-universe-has-ever-known.” It’s on his letterhead. Who better to talk to concerning ethics than the photographer whose bumper sticker reads: “Shoot ‘em all, let God sort ‘em out.” He was a difficult man to find because no one knew what he looked like due to his habit of pocketing huge fees for magazine assignments and sending Photo 1 students from the local community college to shoot the pictures “for the experience.” Eventually I caught up with him at his office stool in Flanagan’s Bar and Grill – and not before time. He died a few days later, friendless but not alone because he had amassed a huge number of enemies, all of whom were photojournalists.

Books and movies are always depicting photojournalists as hustlers and voyeurs. Is that fair?

No, of course not. It is typical liberal namby-pamby understatement. Photographers are also parnoid, aggressive and utterly selfish. Like Sontag said, all photographers are sublimated rapists and murderers.

What a nasty thing to say about your colleagues!

It depends on how you look at it. Photojournalism is a nasty job, but someone has to do the dirty work of life, like pumping out septic tanks.

Why?

Otherwise the septic tanks would back up and overflow…

No, I mean why is photojournalism a dirty job?

Because photography is pandering to, and encouraging, the dumbing of the human mind. The average attention span of an adult American is 2.4 seconds and falling fast. Reading, therefore, is a major effort. Looking at pictures is simple by comparison – and the viewers do not need to follow lines with their fingers. So, more dumb people demand more pictures (the dumber the better) in their periodicals so they can become dumber and demand more picures… Circulation shoots up, and revenues pour in, and publishers appear on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous while photographers are kept in kennels until they are sicced on another dumb victim…

Hold on a minute, Frank. I can’t let you get away with such slander. I know photojournalists who really and truly care. Just the other day, I heard a photographer in raptures about cosmic peace through pictures, or something.

Yeah, and it’s pinko commie perverts like that who give photography a bad name. Perhaps you have noticed it is the second-rate photographers who talk the most about ‘integrity’ and ‘honor’. They are the idiots who talk as if they are the specially appointed guardians of truth in our culture. What arrogance. What stupidity to take themselves so seriously. I tell you, if our culture is being propped up by photographers then we are in deeper trouble than anyone realizes. Next, they will be forming religious sects with themselves as gurus. Then they will not be photographers, but Artists…

And on it goes… my god we lost something special (and arsey) when Bill Jay died. He makes me gut-laugh without pause.

Oh… it’s from the essay The Ethical Anarchist.

Rather than the Alice in Chains masterpiece… we’re just talking about a big 6 tonne pile of soil sitting in the front yard waiting to be wheel-barrowed out into the backyard…

There have been quite a few bits and pieces here recently referring to brokenbench peeps and their work; with good reason and as an expression of an underlying concern that I have become more aware of as I gain a little perspective.

Robert Adams (again) hit the nail so squarely in Colleagues when he spoke about fellow photographers and the importance of them in allowing him to continue and to provide support and enthusiasm when things are looking grim (for when you’re all in the hole together there is a shared sense of desperation mixed with the comedy of the absurd).

Late Saturday and early Sunday saw me sitting in an apartment that I recognised from pictures. Spiro was holding court and putting incredible books under my nose, alerting me to other people’s pictures; whole bodies of work and approaches that rip my eyes open and give me a shake shake. It is something that I’ve not had much of in the last few years, and it is at times overwhelming compared to blissfully wandering around in my own little bubble.

And yet thanks-be that there is the opportunity to see things I never would, to have a guide into places I wouldn’t visit (not to show me where to go, but simply to entice me off my chosen path of the day). D’Agata’s Hometown had passed me by until Miralis thrust it under my nose, and Greater Atlanta by Steinmetz was a revelation that Davey was brandishing as my head spun.

Blondz has put a new bit of work on the brokenbench site: Abandoned

In his own words:

What some see as wastelands awaiting ‘development’, these spaces actually become temporary and transient galleries of visual expression. Abandoned blue collar zones are transformed into vibrant & creative spaces, each one albeit with a short ‘shelf life’. Although these new art galleries will eventually be condemned, just like the workers that came before them, for now they are places where freedom of expression and creativity reign.”

I love that he’s continued to work with the stencil and graf art, but has stepped back a little here, letting the places he is photographing exist more as structures than simply the canvas. The buildings play off against the painting – fantastic.

Get over to BB and check it out, as easy as clicking the link below.

As a complete aside, Blondie’s shot of Ozi Batla with the lightning strike in the distance made me giggle when I came across it. The ruins in the background are the old Lithgow Steel Works, right next to the house that I grew up in. My little BMX pushie used to bounce its way up there all the time (before the place was cleaned up and fenced off as an ‘attraction’ with a car park and the interpretive signs). All that bare dirt, large stone and discarded material was heaven to dig around in.

These days a large estate surrounds much of the historical site and covers the old jumps and bumps we built; it’s full of cul-de-sacs, large new houses and bare footpaths.

www.brokenbench.com.au