Monday, February 28, 2011

Postcards from Argentina :: Summer in Patagonia

Lago Moreno - post climb, pre asado.
Climbing, swimming, slack lining, asado, maté rituals, and late lingering sunsets...whether child, adult, or stuck somewhere in between, summer here is an invitation to forget responsibilities and relax into the playful meanderings of Patagonian summer.
Learning the maté ritual
Island adventures
El Maestro

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Unseen Photographer :: Poker Faces

I've been intending to write this post for awhile now. To delay any longer would be negligence on my part, since I think the subject is somewhat time sensitive. It goes without saying that I am not the first to postulate on the topic of cell phone photography, but it is something that comes to mind often, and that I was reminded of recently while visiting the SFMOMA where they have an excellent exhibition called "Exposed: voyeurism, surveillance, and the camera since 1870".

The following is a breakdown of my musings inspired by the aforementioned exhibit, and my recent forays into cell phone photography:
Thesis: Phone cameras could be to contemporary street photography, what the 35mm in the hands of Walker Evans was to the street photography of the 30's.
Relevance: In a time when phone cameras have become relatively powerful, yet are still not recognized as cameras by a majority of the world's population, there is a brief window into a new realm of photographic possibilities. In a sense it is a voyeuristic window, but not in the perverted sense that we associate with "voyeurism". Rather it is a chance to take photos that we would not normally take with an SLR - whether because SLR's are prohibited, or because pulling out a large camera would in some way disturb the subject and alter the scene, or simply because the most readily available camera is our cell phone.

Experiment: The experience that got me thinking about this took place in an old cafe in Missoula, MT that runs a poker table into the wee hours of the morning. Cameras are strictly forbidden there - a rule which is enforced. However I soon found that my iPhone was seen as just a phone. No negative camera associations. Over the course of a couple weeks, I alternately lost and won large stacks of chips, ate too many plates of gravy smothered hash browns, and earned the nick name the "cell phone kid" at the poker table. I was addicted though, and not just to the gambling and gravy, but to the thrill of capturing something that I had a feeling no one had captured before (at least not here, not with these old characters). While everyone thought I was busy texting or playing games on my phone, I was able to snap the following set of images. Shots that could never have been taken with a 35mm camera.

Conclusion: While you can debate the artistic or journalistic merit of these photographs, I am sharing them in the hopes that they will spark your curiosity (as they have mine) to explore what seems to be a unique window of time in the life of photography, in which many of us carry a "camera" that is not in the eyes of others a "camera" and thus has given us a new outlet through which to free our vision and bring to light scenes which would otherwise be very difficult if not impossible to capture...

The images above were taken using an iPhone4, and the Hipstamatic app

Note: The inspiration for the title of this post comes from the following excerpt pertaining to the SFMOMA exhibit, "Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the camera since 1870".

"The Unseen Photographer"

"Photography has been central to voyeuristic looking since 1871, the year in which the gelatin dry plate was invented and cameras became small enough to be secreted in books, clothing, shoes, pistols, or canes. Although most "detective cameras" were advertised as harmless amusements for amateurs, the public found them troubling from the start, raising concerns about privacy that remain valid to this day. This section of the exhibition traces the use of the hidden camera in public spaces, from the turn-of-the-century amateur picture makers Paul Martin and Horace Engle, to modernist photographers Walker Evans and Weegee and contemporary artists such as Philip-Lorca diCorcia, whose series Heads, featured here, famously inspired a privacy lawsuit in 2006."

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Patagonia Climbing Adventures :: Día VI & VII

Scott sending the roof on Imaginate, El Campanile.
 January 29

9:00 I awake with a carefully crafted plan to spend today relaxing around el Refugio shooting Sean and Nico slack-lining - and thereby avoodomg the 2+ hour bushwhack/scramble to the adjacent valley to climb el Campanile with Blake and Scott. It's not that I don't like climbing, but having surpassed my expectations yesterday by climbing a 5.10 pitch on M2 (broken hand in tow) as well getting a number of solid shots of the guys climbing, I feel validated in a rest day. 

10:00 Over a breakfast of fried sausage and polenta cakes topped with leftover pasta sauce, Blake and Scott proceed to convince me that, contrary to my suppositions, today is not a valid rest day. Breakfast finished, I begrudgingly shoulder camera gear and straggle out of camp in their all too chipper wake.

16:00 "Validated rest days" be damned! The climbing on el Campanile is incredible. I have invented what may become a new technique in crack climbing. It is called the "cast jam". As the name implies, it consists in me jamming my broken hand into appropriately sized cracks and then using it to lock myself in while I go for the next hold. The only downside is that it requires a fairly specific crack size, and sometimes the "cast" (actually a heavily taped 6'' metal reinforced brace) gets kinda stuck. Also you actually have break your hand so you can get a cast, otherwise it is cheating. In any case, through utilizing this, and other unorthodox techniques I manage to "flash" (climb without falling - top roped) my hardest route to date (4 pitches of 5.10-5.10c), and end up on top of the highest spire in Frey with a view of Argentina surrounding, Chile to the west, and a pair of condors circling in the valley below.

17:00 Fixing a rope and lowering off the anchor at the top, I agree to a final stint "jugging" on what I have by now determined to be a very suspect 3 year old 8mm rope. Hanging in space some 30 stories above the ground, I attempt to perform some Cirque du Soleil moves to keep myself from spinning in the wrong direction as Scott sends the roof on Imaginate. The resulting photos (above/below) leave me whooping and laughing triumphantly!

View from the cave
Obligatory Condor shot
Scott on M2
Blake on M2
Evening boulder session

January 30
13:00  We make a mad dash decent from Frey, fueled by fresh oatmeal cookies from el Refugio, and the prospect of showers, chapstick, and a fresh pair of pants that does not have the crotch ripped out of them. To clarify, I have been wearing the same pair of pants for 8 days - the last 4 of which they have been crotchless due too abusive climbing and hiking on my part. Also, having forgotten chapstick I have been using peanut butter as a delicious but less than stylish substitute to sooth my cracking lips. We make the decent in less than 2 hours, running groups of trekkers off the trail as we scramble across ravines and huck streams in a dirtbag climber rendition of the final scenes of the Last of the Mohicans.

18:00 I part ways (as planned) with Blake and Scott, as they head south in search of more mountains, and I prepare to hole up editing photos for the next week in El Bolson.

Scott - night solos the spire next to camp in this 30 sec exposure.