Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Geo-Inspired Twilight Portraits

Watching 'The Photographers' DVD about 5 different National Geographic photographers and their quest to cover the globe, chasing those great illusive images, I realized that they incorporate many off-camera flash techniques to achieve new, interesting perspectives on their subjects. These were shot last night with my friends and neighbors on our rooftop here in San Telmo.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Boca Wins Again - Campiones Copa Libertador!!

Buenos Aires Auto Show - HOT!

When did chicks are cars NOT go together? But here, even the uniforms scream FASHION!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Los Cartoneros y Modelos

These photos are part of an on-going series about Cartoneros - the men, woman and children who religiously hit the streets of Buenos Aires to sort, collect recycle and then sell anything they find of value in our trash. It lies somewhere between fashion and documentary - street theatre - addressing the contrast of their lives against ours, a mixing of elements and emotions and themes, like scenes from movies that don't exist, commenting on the absurdity of life as we know it at times.

Untitled - Ziggy Stardust Inspired

Model - Arnaud Saloman

Thanks to many people who helped me with this project thus far in its various stages of ideas, especially friends who posed as 'models'. Special thanks to Tommy Abad for his patience and guidence with the lighting. Mostly, thanks to the friendly and wildly curious cartoneros who welcomed us wholeheartedly and enjoyed working on the project, calling it 'art'. This project is dedicated to them.

These photos are currently on display in San Telmo, Buenos Aires at Cafe Pride - corner of Pasaje Guiffre @ Balcarce (on the corner from my crib) for the next two months.

Untitled - Alejandra y Los Cartoneros

Modelo - Alejandra Dominguez

Space Invadors - Stealing Their Trash

Suzi Smithson as a Space Woman, here in Buenos Aires to steal the Cartoneros trash.

Gaucho Cartotraficante

Shot in front of the mural at Paseo Colon and San Juan titled 'The Education of Slavery'. Modelo - Irina. Photo by Tommy Abad

Untitled - Paseo Colon y Independencia, San Telmo

'Tomando Sol'

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Boca, Boca, BOCA!!!

I won't go into the lenghty details of last night's Boca game at the Bombonera against Gremio from Brazil, the first of two games to decide the champion for the Copa Libertadores but it did involve fireworks, smoke bombs, druken Indians, riot cops, tear gas, rubber bullets, a lot of dodging of flying rocks, bottles, cans, sticks and bands of distraught and angry Brazilan fans, trapping us between barricades of cops at both ends of the street in the middle of a full-on street war. But Boca won, 3-0!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Gardening, Yoga and Chance

All key elements to Hal Ashby's brilliant film 'Being There', starring Peter Sellers and Shirley MacLaine in what was to be Sellers last and perhaps best role besides 'Strangelove'. If you haven't seen it, it's a total winner.

When pressed for answers, Chance the Gardener aka Chauncey Gardener (Sellers) simply replies, "I like to watch," as he continues flipping channels on the TV. The final line from the film sums it up best: "Life is a state of mind."

- Late night post after a late night video screening but had to comment, briefly

Friday, June 08, 2007

Tangueros en La Boca

Cristian sent me an SMS text last week asking me if I would attend a tango performace tonight that was very important to him - at La Ideal - one of the oldest and most classic milongas or tango halls in all of Buenos Aires. I took my second terrifying tango lesson there. That's another story. Sure, I dig tango. I'll go.

I met Cristian and Jessica pictured here, through Samantha, the tanguera that I fell madly in and out of love with when I first arrived. Doesn't even matter if she's gonna be there. I'll bring a wingman, Brian, my new friend, also a film maker. I don't even have any pesos, waiting for some checks to come in. Sure I'll go.

These are pictures (uncorrected) that we shot together about a month ago while on assignment for Rough Guide travel books. I am catching up on the Digital Work Flow to begin another job for them that will run through September. Then I want to drive around the world... maybe with a dog named Cheeto, probably not Cheeto.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Baseball is Life, Life is Good

Film Review and Commentary on ‘Game 6’

Directed by Michael Hoffman
Written by Don DeLillo
Starring Michael Keaton and Robert Downy Jr.

Don DeLillo hits a solid double with his first foray into screenplay writing with ‘Game 6’, starring Michael Keaton and Robert Downy Jr. The film is centered around game 6 of the 1986 World Series between the New York Met’s and the Boston Red Sox when first baseman Bill Buckner let the ball through his legs on what should have been a routine final out and the Met’s scored the go ahead run that lead them to win the series.

Robert Downy Jr. plays a reclusive and irreverent costume-wearing Broadway theatre critique, making or breaking a writers career with the drop of his pen and just one scathing review. “I tell the truth and the truth is usually painful,” he says, adding a subtle comedic genius to his role as usual.

Keaton plays a successful New York playwright whose wife is seeing ‘a prominent divorce lawyer’ and can’t talk to his angst-ridden daughter about it. Keaton is a devout Red Sox fan forced to lament over the history of his losing team. ‘Winning is easy, its losing that’s hard. There are so many complexities and layers to losing. The Red Sox’s have ways of losing that… that can keep you awake at night.’

I read my first DeLillo novel – White Noise – straight off the farm as a freshman in college English class at San Diego State University. There I also learned about film, my formative cinematic youth, studying ‘History of Cinema’ with Greg Kahn for two film-drenched years, semester after semester. Greg always said ‘cinema is like baseball’ and that we can compare the two when we talk about levels of appreciation and study them beyond the basics. For the first trip to the ball park for someone one has never been before, the first-time experience for the newcomer can be immensely satisfying – the sights, sounds and smells of the stadium, the hotdogs, peanuts and cracker-jacks, the roar of the crowd, the 7th inning stretch, the scale of it all. But for the avid fan, baseball is more than just a game as DeLillo suggests – the squeeze play, the stats, the decision to bring in an ace relief pitcher to close the game as the Red Sox did in the ’86 series game 6.

It is similar with film. For the novice watching a film they can be taken away into a world of fantasy, enjoying the moving images, the characters, the story. But for the serious fan of cinema the appreciation can run much deeper – the subtle nuances of lighting, the layers and layers involved in the film’s production, the use of the musical score, the performance commanded by the actors from the director, the mise-en-scene and how all these elements come together to speak to us beyond shear entertainment.

A true fan of baseball I am not, but fans of DeLillo, baseball and art are in for a treat with ‘Game 6’ as all three are interconnected around opening night of Keaton’s most personal and important work. Instead of attending his own opening night, he ducks out to watch the Red Sox lose again. Easy to pick apart as most other critics have done, DeLillo delivers, not needing to hit a home-run during his first at bat in the majors.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Restless in BA

I’ve been reading more this past year than in recent memory – currently, ‘Who Needs A Road’, by Harold Stephens & Albert Podell – about their Trans World Record Expedition back in 1966 in a Toyota Landcruiser and a Willy's Jeep. I also recently finished Rory Stewart's best seller, ‘The Places in Between’ about his solo walk across Afghanistan in 2002 in the middle of winter; braving snow, mountains, bandits and solitude, with the 120 pound Bull Mastiff that he was ‘given’ along the way – pretty damn inspiring and a real look inside Afghanistan, one that almost no one will every be able to do as he did. I also caught up on IanWalk’s blog about his journey from Tierra del Fuego to Alaska, also alone and on foot, inspired by a llama. He got to Columbia and had to break back to the States for lack of funds and is now substitute teaching somewhere outside of Portland.

Reading about the Trans World’s trek through Egypt reminds me of the time I went to Egypt back in the early 90’s to shoot travel videos. They are all suffering from something they call ‘Cairo colon’, something I remember very vividly. We were in some government office building trying to get all of our confiscated video gear back when it hit – a god awful green spew coming from both ends of my body. Five days had already passed and we hadn’t shot one frame of video. We did ride horses across the Sahara, gambled at the posh tourist hotel across from the pyramids where we were staying, posed for pictures with camels in front of the pyramids and woke at dawn to the wailing calls to prayer. All I remember wanting was to stop shooting all of the tourist shit and pop into one of the smoky cafes that we rode past on horseback down some back alleyway, the back route to the desert. That’s what I wanted to shoot way back then.

And here I am, living large enough in BA with as many comforts as could be hoped for anywhere – a life that I could barely afford back in San Francisco, nothing romantic about it at all, more mundane than anything. And I’m sleepless, restless… longing for the road, longing to travel – for perpetual motion – for the journey itself and I’m mad at myself for wanting. And for perceived laziness and for such freedom to dream up such discontent.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Telefonica - Gallegos Hijos de Putas!

You think Sprint, MCI or AT&T are bad, try working with the local telco in Buenos Aires - Telefonica - a Spanish company reveling in the tradition of the conquistadors, raping and pillaging the poor people of Latin America 600 years later.

To avoid a lengthy and angry diatribe, here's the details en breve. We're fortunate here in the third world to have decent broadband internet. Fibertel and Multicanal are the two top providers in BA, but unfortunately here on my street in San Telmo under the ancient cobblestones, there is no fiber optics, only traditional telco lines and Telefonica is the only carrier available. When I first moved in I had to wait a mere six weeks before I could even order broadband (ADSL, 512K at best) because the Telefonica employees were on strike, don't even remember why, probably some kind of wage dispute.

After returning from California a month ago, I learned that my internet had gone down and thus began the nightmare. Daily calls to Telefonica for tech support all ended the same - "OK, please hold the line, don't hang up and we'll be with you shortly..." sometimes holding up to 30 minutes per call and then 'beep, beep, beep, beep,' that dreaded disconnect busy signal. Some days I would call up to 10-15 times a day and the result was always the same, many times getting the busy signal right up front. Twice I did get through and filed a report - my service is not working, ok... we're working on it - and still nothing ever happened and I could never get through again to follow up on my service report.

Begrudingly, I decided a trip to Telefonica's HQ in Microcentro was in order. After waiting in a short line I was directed to a longer line and told, "wait in this line and then use telephone number 8 to report your complaint." No. I'm here to speak with customer service, not to call them on the phone... I can wait on hold at home. After a bit of complaining, the woman behind the desk pulled me out of line and told me that she would make the call for me. After another 20 minutes on hold, she said something to the woman on the other line and passed me the phone and told me to have a good day. I explained my case again, that I wanted to discontinue their terrible service and get my three months of payments for no service refunded. Unbelievably, she asked me to hold the line and then after another twenty minutes on hold, the line went dead. Unbelievable!

I asked after the woman who had made the call for me and was told she had gone to lunch but would be back in an hour. I was forced back into line and had to wait to use telephone number 8 - dialing the same toll free number that I had been dialing from home over the past month. The man next to me slammed down his phone and started yelling, chanting and clapping his hands in the middle of the office, trying to incite a protest right then and there. I had read in the paper about a similar indident the week before at the local power company - Edesur. Apparently a man had a similar bill dispute and got so incensed that he shot and killed to employees in the office.

Finally, another woman came on the line, took down the same information I'd already given three times now and asked me to come back in ten days for my refund, agreeing to shut off my non-working broadband. Unfortunately, they shut off my phone service too, all but crippling my outside communications. The wife of the man who was chanting came up to me hurridly after I had hung up my phone and told me, "Telefonica son hijos de putas Gallegos, no son Argentions, eh?" - 'Telefonica are Spanish son's of bitches, not Argentines', just to make sure I knew the difference.

- Thanks to the Universidad del Cine or FUC next door, I've got a semi-stable wireless connection coming thr0ugh the heavy brick wall , keeping me barely alongside the Internet super highway, now reduced to mere dirt tracks headed nowhere throught the vast and barren cyber-desert landscape.