outafocus isn’t

30 05 2007


(First published April 6. ’05)

California photographer Susan Burnstine’s photoblog, outafocus, is uniquely intriguing. Susan has a real feel for the different characters of various types of cameras and the kinds of pictures they take. Unlike other photoblogs which are catalogued by types of pictures or the dates the pictures were taken, Susan has built galleries around which kind of camera she used. From a Mamiya 645 medium format to the infamous Diana ‘toy’ cameras with plastic lenses (of which she owns many – so many, in fact, that this week she’ll be raffling off three of them), each gallery has a separate identity and its own individual look.

But the Dianas are by far her favorite. Of the 60 photographs currently living in her galleries, more than half -33 – were taken with a Diana. The soft plastic lens tends to blur the picture, and Susan uses that hazy blur to produce photos that seem to have been taken of a dream or a memory.

Pictures like this (‘In the Distance’) have an unreal reality, or perhaps a real unreality, that – a bit like those dark adult comic books, Sin City, say – belongs to a world similar to the one we live in but slightly skewed, softer around even its harder edges than the one we live in, a world where memories are stripped to their essence. The form of the man in the picture above isn’t the form of a specific man but of generic man, of Man sitting by the vastness of an ocean, dreaming. Dreaming of what? Perhaps everything, perhaps nothing, perhaps both at once. It’s an iconic photograph, out of time or real space, of an alternate universe parallel to our own. We recognize it, alright, but why?

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Raymi the Minx

29 05 2007

(Originally published Feb 21, ’05)

minx: (mingks) n., a cheeky or mischievous girl
–The Oxford American Dictionary

And Raymi the Minx is all of that. While you’re at it, you can add irreverent, scatological, self-obsessed, insecure, arrogant, discumbobulated, opinionated, compassionate, intense, distant, exhibitionist, funny, hip and clueless, sometimes all at once. That will do for a start, but understand: it’s just a start. Raymi is one complicated individual, but then so aren’t we all, and isn’t that the point?

Raymi’s blog, which today is called either soon i will hit the ground and explode or when the peanuts wept (she changes the title several times a week and the title on the banner is often different from the title rendered by your browser), is a Mulligan’s Stew of stream-of-conscienceness patter that veers from the unexceptional to the trivial to the poetic, post-to-post. Raymi writes about everything and nothing in a semi-free-form ramble that sometimes sounds like Kerouac on crack and at other times like a whiny teenager afflicted with petty obsessions and neural diarrhea. That most of it is tongue-in-cheek, so to speak, saves the worst of it from maudlin excess and lifts the best of it into Walt Whitman/Charles Bukowski-Land, where it twinkles like a pearl necklace in a junkyard. Read the rest of this entry »

.Mused: PhotoBlogs Take a Step Up

8 08 2004

Most of the photo-blogs I’ve seen have been little more than glorified family albums. There’s nothing wrong with that, but photography is more than just a memory-saver. Years ago, when I had a little money for a while, I took pictures as a hobby and discovered how difficult it was to get what you were looking for: the right composition, the right colorization, the right texture, the right light. It was relatively easy to succeed at one or the other, a little harder to get a two or three combo going, but practically impossible to capture it all. Great photographers seem to do this routinely, but for the rest of us it’s a struggle that can take years to develop (no pun intended).

I did grow to love photography and appreciate the people who can take great pictures, however rare. Photoblogs has lots of good ones on its list, but one in particular caught my eye because unlike most of the others, it seems to be dedicated to art photos alone.

.Mused (that’s (dot) Mused) is an elegant blend of beautifully rendered photographs that have absolutely nothing in common except their perfection. A B&W of a musician

–lives next door to a color-symphony of a laboratory.

Photoblogger ‘pixelflake’ isn’t interested in photo-essays or documenting places and/or people; s/he’s only interested in great pictures and can apparently produce them effortlessly–at least s/he makes it look effortless. From the almost startling abstraction of an alley

–to the true abstraction of reflected light

–to the amusing if unintended juxtaposition of colliding messages

–to the deceptively simple color-study of a palm tree framed against a blue sky–

–the only thing these images have in common is pixelflake’s extraordinary eye for the telling detail, the accidental complimentation of form with texture, the sudden surprise of a graceful line where you’d least expect it. S/he seems particularly drawn to abstract lines, as here–

–and to incomplete, naked forms, as in the picture of reflected light above. S/he doesn’t try to impose form on them–s/he’s more courageous than that; s/he revels in them as they are, for what they are, and in the process draws from them an unexpected strength and the meaning at the core of each.

I spent more than an hour surfing .Mused and found only one shot I thought didn’t work–an astonishing success rate, to me, because I’m usually really quirky when it comes to photos–I nit-pick them to death: this should have been cropped, that should have been framed differently, the other one should have been in color instead of b&w (or vice versa). But surfing pixelflake’s photographs engendered almost none of that. I could flip from picture-to-picture, lingering on many (I find the picture of the guitar player haunting on a lot of different levels), without that nagging feeling that something wasn’t quite right, that there was something either I was missing or the photographer had missed.

‘pixelflake’ missed zip. Do yourself a favor–if you like photography, don’t miss .Mused.