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AK47 Shoots Pictures

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Photography magazines were a passion of mine before I moved to the edge of the jungle of Mexico. I can no longer get American Photography nor Aperture, if they are still going. “Popular…” and “Modern…” like “Shutterbug” were just for the ads and an article on How to this or that. The genre began with Stiegliz’ “Camera Work” which evolved into other fine paper magazines like “Aperture” with serious, well reproduced works.They became ever more expensive.

Here in Mexico I get “Cuartoscuro” put out by a stock and assignment agency in Mexico City. It is quite good, especially for Mexico where photography and its’ artificial, renaissance perspective is not seen by most of the population. A population that normally can’t read or isn’t interested in reading . I finally bought my first computer (OK, I am a digital late-bloomer) a bit over a year ago to pay bills and send some email. Suddenly I was addicted to the ability to read the Village Voice, the New York Times, The London Times, The Review of Books and even Scientific American. Then I really got hooked on the digital world and began my photoblog. I discovered not only others and photographers’ websites but; get this, Photo Magazines on-line, paperless and filled with pictures. They are proliferating and the quality is astounding. New media for the new age.

Given my 33kbs download time here,totally examining one at a time seemed wise. Don’t snicker. The telephone lines were only put through a few years ago. Therefore each picture takes time to download and had better be worth my investment of time.

I begin with my favorite. “AK47”, a bi-monthly. This is issue number 7 and it is at http://www.ak47.tv. Here is the current issue:
There is a Winograndish essay, “Snapshots” by William Greiner. It has some excellent shots and they outweigh the ok ones. There are a few duds. But Gary Winogrand and Robert Frank ,who are the heroes of the line he follows, had their duds too. The “Wedding Dress” Santa Fe, NM 2001 is everything I always wanted to capture in a shopwindow shot. Here and there I have some that please me but his is on the cover of AK47 and deserves the honor. It is what I have wanted to capture since I returned to photography in 1979 and started playing Winogrand on Poughkeepsie streets on my lunch hour. “Bridge Mural and Mirror” San Francisco 2002 has great color and “Painted Tree Trunk” Miami 2004 work the magic of color to the edges with information we might not need but enjoy. “Civil War Mural” New Orleans 2003 does everthing it should: entertains and confuses and fills the frame with painted images and an air conditioner to juxtapose levels of reality “Dog Head” Baton Rouge ’02 fails as much as the others succeed. “Yellow Sandwich Truck”, LA ’03 hints of the truck and the sandwich and of colors that collide and confuse as much as the cut-off information in the frame.

“Black Holes and Other Inconsistencies” by Edgar Martins is mostly the art of the banal which has its following but I am not a follower. I like magic and action. There is a series about water that includes a beautiful seascape with fore- and back-grounds and the frame filled with beauty and another of water with a neat oil slick. Since I am working on a series of water abstractions; I know they are as hard to pull off as a magic trick and these succeed.

“The Adventures of Guille and Beli” by Alessandra Sanquinetti starts off freakily and left me not quite ready to push the arrow (It is a nicely designed site) for the second since the first is of two young girls, one not-so-attractive and quite obese; the other thin and pretty. As the documentary goes on they resolve into people. Young sisters who are obviously close (even if the obese one is seen crying in one shot) and in another the two are playing dress-up. The pretty one aware of herself being attended by her sister. In a staged play-acted scene of “Madonna and Child” they are in a bleak background, the angelic child too beautiful and the obese one reaching for god. In “Black Cloud” they hug under a lowering sky and there is enough pathos and love that it could be insufferably sappy; but isn’t. It is, at the end, my favorite because there is more than color and design and space. There are people we begin to care about and the picture series stays in your mind and haunts.

Finally in this issue there is “Dancers” by Morton Nilsson. The subjects are ballroom dancers in Denmark. They are upright and uptight and as stiff as the dances they perform in their tuxes and evening gowns. The women have inches of paint; the men with hair slicked back and back we go to the world of the 1920’s with a hard, modern edge. Does it sound as if I don’t like the essay. I don’t because I don’t like the subjects and I would probably be less than enamored with the photographer; but the pictures are successful. They are shot directly (or in one case a close portrait of the slicked back hair on the back of the head of a blonde, male dancer. Simple, harsh, telling. All are shot straight on, with direct strobe harsh enough and formal enough to show us who they are under their articial expressions, lack of expression, and unforgiving looks. The uncomplimentary, revealing lighting works even though – or because – we are no longer used to it in a world of diffusion devices and bounced light and soft lights.

This essay follows the thread of history of Weegee with his Speed Graphic and flashbulbs shooting death scenes in New York in the ’40s and Helmut Newton with his high contrast and slightly perverted view of life in the netherworld of the the night and of fashion and even Diane Arbus and her straight-forward examination of the dark side of her subjects.

Surf on over to AK47 at http://www.ak47.tv/ and sign up for their email reminders and links to new issues and try their RSS feed (it didn’t work for me).

Enjoy the magazine without wasting the paper — and it’s free to boot. Still, it is nice to have some glossy paper in hand and the chance to lie in a hammock and look at pictures or swat a fly (or here, the nearest tarantula).

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About hfdratch

  • Thank you for your comments and interest in my work. I now also have a blog which started out being about the affects of Hurricane Katrina , but is more… Cheers