Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 in Review

The year 2009, end of another decade and a year of triumph and disappointment. Like any other year, 2009 was a 12 month roller coaster ride. It seemed every asset of our lives from financial to the arts was hit hard.

It always seems this time of year we fondly remember the people who have passed. Some deaths are more notable than others.
What I find fascinating is that death is the big equalizer. The one thing pauper or king cannot escape.

Here is a cross section of the more notable deaths of 2009. (In no particular order)

* Billy Mays, the television pitchman known for his boisterous hawking of products such as Orange Glo and OxiClean died the age of 50

* Susan Atkins, who committed one of modern history's most notorious crimes when she joined Charles Manson and his gang for a 1969 killing spree that terrorized Los Angeles and put her in prison for the rest of her life, died at the age of 61.

* Soupy Sales, Comedian died October 22nd at age 83.

* Carl Ballantine, actor best known for his role as crewman Lester Gruber in McHale's Navy but began his career as a comedian and magician. Died at the age of 92.

* Patriarch Pavle, who led Serbia's Christian Orthodox Church through its post-Communist revival and called for peace and conciliation during the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s. He was 95

* Oral Roberts, Evangelist and university founder died at the age of 91.

* Roy Disney, the nephew of Walt Disney and at one point served as the Vice Chairman of Walt Disney Company died at the age of 79.

* Eunice Shriver, one of the Kennedy dynasty and founder of the Special Olympics died at age 88.

* Jimmy Boyd, Child singer, best known for the original rendition of the Christmas song "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" in 1952, died at the age of 70.

* Mickey Carroll, who played one of the original Munchkins in the 1938 movie classic 'The Wizard of Oz' died at the age of 89.

* Ed McMahon, probably best known as Johnny Carson's sidekick on 'The Tonight Show' died at the age of 86.

* Sen. Ted Kennedy lost his battle with brain cancer and died at the age of 77.

* Harry Kalas, legendary announcer and voice of the Philadelphia Phillies, passed away at the age of 73.

* David Carradine, actor, was found dead in Bangkok . Carradine was known for his roles in "Kung Fu" and "Kill Bill." He was 73.

* Dom DeLuise actor, comedian who starred in comedy classics like "Cannonball Run", and "Spaceballs." died at the age of 75.

* Marilyn Chambers, 1970's porn star was found dead in her home at the age of 56.

* Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, Nobel prize winner and known as the "father of the green revolution" died at the age of 95.

* Patrick Swayze, actor who is best know for his dancing in the movie "Dirty Dancing" died after a battle with pancreatic cancer at the age of 57.

* Captain Lou Albano, professional wrestler who appeared in Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" video, died at the age of 76.

* Michael Jackson, Pop star was pronounced dead on June 25 at the age of 50.

* Walter Cronkite, Legendary newsman died at the age of 92.

* Farrah Fawcett Actress whose poster adorned my teen-aged bedroom wall, died after a three year battle with cancer. She was 62.

And Finally Gidget, Taco Bell advertisement mascot died at the age of 15.

The list is not complete and I am sure thee is probably someone that you know personally who has past away in 209.

In reviewing this list I can't help but think of the ones that frankly, no one remembered until they died.

Death is the great equalizer; Nobel prize winner to porn star we all have to meet the Grim Reaper someday so we should celebrate life and not mourn death.

To all my readers I wish you a healthy and prosperous 2010!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Bravo England!

In recent blogs you have heard me complain about the irresponsibility and downright deceitful practices of a lot of advertising companies and manufacturers of "beauty" products for their ads. They over retouch images so people are skinnier, taller, and less wrinkly than they actually are, all to sell a product that, of course, doesn't do what is promised. Believe me I have the crows feet to prove it! But hey I earned them dam it.

Anyway, yesterday, the Advertising Standards Authority if the United Kingdom banned the complete set of Olay Twiggy ads, ruling that the post-production retouching could give consumers a "misleading impression of the effect the product could achieve." Finally someone is saying what we all have been thinking. Twiggy, the 1960's icon is now 60 years old, and looks great. No need to be excessively retouched.

Would this ban ever happen in this country? I hope so, but am not holding my breathe. As long as big corporations still stranglehold our politicians nothing will change.

In the US, we have Truth in Advertising laws. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the main federal agency that enforces advertising laws and regulations.

Under the Federal Trade Commission Act:
* Advertising must be truthful and non-deceptive;
* Advertisers must have evidence to back up their claims; and
* Advertisements cannot be unfair.

So how is making someone skinnier, look younger, or have more hair fair?

Besides all that, what is wrong with looking your age? Yes, I am also a bit guilty of retouching images for clients. But these images are for their personal use and not to sell a product. I try to make my clients look as beautiful in photos as they are... in their heads.

When the focus of this deception is to sell a product, then there needs to be a backlash. Not only are we feeding this unattainable vision of beauty to our children, now with a simple cream we can erase years of life. So that our older generation, my generation, is now ashamed of looking their age.

Isn't it bad enough that you can get a Botox injection in a strip mall?

My wife an I recently joined a gym. We work out about 4 times a week, to get in shape and to stay healthy, longer. We do it for ourselves and each other. We want to be the best person we can without canceling out the years we have had on this planet.

Self dignity and self respect should be taught and preached. Not that you can take a short cut to self respect by changing your appearance with a cream.

So bravo England and I hope this wave of truth spreads.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What Holiday Owns December?

When I talk about religion and Christmas I can already here the shouts of Grinch and Bah Humbug. It's not that I dislike the holiday season it's that there are more than one holiday during this festive time of year. The Christians, especially the members of the Advent Conspiracy forget that before Christmas there was Yule, Chanukah and sometimes Ramadan. In fact Christmas was purposely made a holiday in December to coincide with the pagan festival of Yule.

Yule is the celebration of the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. The Goddess gives birth to the God. The Sun represents the God reborn. Fires are lit to welcome him. The ancient Pagans had rituals to hasten the end of winter and bring in the spring when nature’s bounty would, again, prevail. The day is a reminder that death isn’t final; there will be rebirth.

Chanukah or Hanukkah from the Hebrew word for "dedication" or "consecration", marks the re dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem after its desecration by the forces of the King of Syria Antiochus IV Epiphanes and commemorates the "miracle of the container of oil". According to the Talmud, at the re-dedication following the victory of the Maccabees over the Seleucid Empire, there was only enough consecrated olive oil to fuel the eternal flame in the Temple for one day. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days, which was the length of time it took to press, prepare and consecrate fresh olive oil.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It is the Islamic month of fasting, in which Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, and indulging in anything that is in excess, from dawn until sunset. During Ramadan, Muslims ask forgiveness for past sins, pray for guidance and help in refraining from everyday evils, and try to purify themselves through self-restraint and good deeds. Ramadan is not always in December, in fact the dates of Ramadan vary, moving forward about ten days each year as it is a moving holiday depending on the moon. But I did not want to forget this very important holiday on the Muslim calendar.

Also we have Kwanzaa, which is our newest of December holidays debuting in 1966.
Kwanzaa, is a week-long celebration held in the United States honoring African heritage and culture. It is marked by participants lighting a candle holder called a kinara. It is observed from December 26 to January 1 each year, primarily in the United States. There are seven days of celebration, featuring activities such as candle-lighting culminating in a feast and gift giving.

So you see, Christmas is not the only celebration in December.
The Colorado-based Focus on the Family is continuing its Stand for Christmas campaign to highlight the offenses of Christmas-denying retailers. According to its website, because "citizens across the nation were growing dissatisfied with the tendency of corporations to omit references to Christmas from holiday promotions. (See TIME's photoessay "Have a Very Ridiculous Christmas.")

This time of year, understanding and tolerance should be the hallmark of the season. But all around us we see more and more people being ignorant and rude in the malls. being caught up in buying that special gift for their spoiled child who already has more than they should.

When I wish someone a Happy Holiday, I am being genuine. It's not because I am anti-Christian it is just that I do not want to exclude anyone with my good tidings.

I do not expect someone to scoff at me because I did not wish them Merry Christmas. But it happens, especially in the small minded town in which I currently reside. They actually get angry and try to correct you with their Merry Christmas. And really who is actually merry?

So, during this holiday season I'd like to wish everyone who take the time to read my blog a thank you and Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Condom Packaging Art Contest

Yesterday was World Aids day. A day to help raise awareness about HIV and Aids. So to promote this the Montgomery County Community College is having an art contest for condom package designs. This contest was sponsored by the Montgomery County Health Department in the hope that it will encourage college students to use a condom before engaging is sexual intercourse.

Even after taking Health 101, a great amount of college students seem to either lack knowledge of sex education or, even if they do know, don't care to use protection when they have sex. "What's the big deal with college students having sex?" you might ask. The big deal is that students are not thinking before acting, and that can lead to grave consequences. What can start out as fun can lead to sexually transmitted diseases such as herpes, gonorrhea and the HIV/AIDS virus.

According to the Center for Disease Control, 1 in 1500 college students are HIV positive. The largest groups of Americans infected with HIV are teenagers and young adults. In 2007, it was estimated that 33.2 million adults and children were living with HIV and AIDS.

With these facts, it should be clear that this is a "big deal" when it comes to colleges students having sex. So this contest seems like a great idea to raise awareness right?
Well not to everyone, ask County Commissioner Joe Hoeffel.
Joe Hoeffel stated, " I don't think the government ought to be in the condom delivery business." and he is opposed to the Montgomery County Health Commision getting involved. He actually was upset that they used tax money to support this contest. The grant money was used to rent a panel of the AIDS quilt. The amount, $500.

So if the schools cannot educate our young adults about safe sex and Aids, and the County Health Departmenst are getting blasted by small minded politicians like Hoeffel, then where do they get their facts?

That's right, other classmates and the internet. No wonder HIV and Aids is still a problem in the our colleges.

Art has always been the conscious of a society. It can take us to places of fantasy or make us think. I have always strived in my art to be socially conscious and help people see what is going on around them. Because I broach touchy, sensative subjects I too have been criticized. I applaud the Montgomery County Community Collage and the health Department and I hope the exhibition is still on display so I can actually view these condom wrapper designs and vote for my favorite.

For more information about this, check out the news report by NBC 10

Support the arts and support world Aids day. And maybe one day we can eradicate this deadly disease.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What's Perfect Anyway?

My adult life has been spent looking at the human body. Being an artist whose work revolves around the nude form, I have seen the body in all it's various incarnations, from thin to heavy, from short to tall.
A few weeks ago I went on vacation. Yes, a vacation. My first one in almost seven years. It was a cruise where we stopped at a private nude beach also Key West, and it was Fantasy Fest. For those of you who do not know what Fantasy Fest is just go to Google Images and click Fantasy Fest, then you'll know.
Anyway, on this trip I got to see people of different shapes and sizes and not only that, different attitudes. In both the beach and Key West, people were nude and in public. No one was worried that they may have eaten a bit too much at the ships buffet, no one cared that they are not in the same shape as in high school and well, no one cared what anyone else thought. Their self image was wonderful. On the beach everyone was nude so there were no awkward feelings of embarrassment. The people on the beach were enjoying the warm sun and the beautiful view and not concerned with what they looked like to others. They just were one with the moment, no hang ups at all. It was a nudist's paradise and the true nudists, as defined
"One who believes in, or practices going nude in social, nonsexualized and frequently mixed-gender groups specifically in cultures where going nude in the social situation is not the norm."
were not thinking about anything but the beauty of the day.
At Key West, it was an exhibitionists and voyeurs paradise! There were people watching people watching people. It was fun and free. I guarantee you there were bible school teachers at Fantasy Fest parading around in masks and a full mural on their bodies. The anonymity of the event made those people free.
So whether it is nude by choice or by situation, these people all were very happy with themselves. For at least these brief days, they were not thinking about what others would think of them.
Our culture is so wrapped up in this perfect unattainable beauty that eating disorders have become so common in America that 1 or 2 out of every 100 students will struggle with one. According to the South Carolina Department of Mental Health:
* It is estimated that 8 million Americans have an eating disorder – seven million women and one million men
* One in 200 American women suffers from anorexia
* Two to three in 100 American women suffers from bulimia
* Nearly half of all Americans personally know someone with an eating disorder (Note: One in five Americans suffers from mental illnesses.)
* An estimated 10 – 15% of people with anorexia or bulimia are males

This just shouldn't be.

Why are we allowing Victoria Secret and other big corporations dictate what beauty is.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and a truly beautiful person is one who can see the beauty in themselves, no mater what the scale says. As long as you are healthy, who cares if your abs are toned or gravity actually is a force you can't beat. That is without plastic surgery and that is a topic for another blog.

I have been extremely lucky to have worked with some wonderful people over the years to help create my artwork. They are in all sizes, colors and shapes, but the one common thread was that they had a wonderful self-worth.

I hope that my Red Chair Project and other photographs help people to realize that a good self image is worth it's weight in gold!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Lets Bomb the Moon

Today. I watched the most boring live feed ever. NASA sent a rocket up to the moon with about 1.5 tons of TNT. The purpose, to blow a hole in the moon to look for water below the lunar surface that could be used by astronauts on future space missions. At 730 EST the LCROSS satellite crashed into the Cabeus crater floor near the moon's south pole at around twice the speed of a bullet, followed four minutes later by a shepherding spacecraft equipped with cameras to record the impact. A NASA scientist said "If we had it (water)there, we could actually make exploration be a bit more sustainable,". "We could make fuel on the moon."
All this is a bit like Buck Rodgers and things of science fiction. But then again Buck Rodgers budget wasn't $17.6 billion, that's right BILLION.
NASA was formed in in July 1958 by the Eisenhower administration. It was all the rage especially when Kennedy said we are going to the moon. NASA had a purpose, to explore and find life on another planet, to quell the curiosity about what's up there. So now, we just blew a hole in the moon to see if it can sustain life.
Sustain life... What about life on earth? How about putting some of the 17.6 billion dollars into sustaining life here on earth. That can be put to use now, not in some distance futuristic moon commune.
I just read that there have been 134 shuttle missions since the first one in 1977. The average cost of a space shuttle mission is about $450 million. That of course if they land in Florida on the way back. That cute piggy-back ride the shuttle takes from California back to Florida if weather is bad costs another million or so.
Now that NASA has 134 missions under their belt, what does this mean to us? Not a Thing.
I won't get into the astronauts that have died during these missions, or about them at all. This is about a total waste of money that could be better spent on sustaining life on earth. Making this a better planet.
Our budget to fight AIDS is only a third more than NASA's annual budget. Finding water on the moon doesn't seem important to the farmers who need water on earth to sustain their crops to feed their families.
Is NASA now just a total waste of time, energy money and lives?
Is it still a viable government project?
Isn't there better ways to spend our tax payer dollars?
With the economy, bail outs, the cost of this senseless war, don't you think our government might at least shave a few billion from NASA's budget and let's see, feed the homeless?
Oh wait, I forgot about all the government contracts that would be lost if NASA stopped punching holes in the moon. I bet those lobbyists would be pretty upset. Or how about Oceaneering Inc. of Houston, Texas, who was award a contract of almost $10 million to make the space suits for the next planned moon mission. Planned moon mission, translation, waste of more of our money.

Again, I have to repeat, WHY are we going to the moon?
NASA's Mission Statement
* To improve life here,
* To extend life to there,
* To find life beyond.

As far as i can see it, in the 50 years that NASA has been around you think they would have been successful with at least one of their items in their mission statement.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Not Pus sized, but Average and Beautiful

I have never thought of my self as a pioneer in photography. I photograph what I am attracted to, what sparks an interest in me. I have been told for years that people like my work because my women are regular people, not super skinny models.
It is about time that the mainstream media understands that beauty comes in all sizes and shapes. Glamour Magazine's, September issue features a normal sized woman, size 12 to 14, nude in a very positive article about body image. (Glamour Magazine) I guess Glamour finally understood this and hit it perfectly. They have been flooded with emails and letters congratulating them on using 20-year-old model Lizzi Miller. Now this is the second time they used her, and she is a professional model, but the image as seen above is natural and beautiful. Showing an average woman being comfortable in her own skin.

Having a 21 year old daughter I have been concerned about the media portrayal of beauty. In my artwork, especially my Red Chair Project I try to help her and everyone interested realize that beauty and sensuality is not a size but a state of mind. A person who is comfortable with themselves is a site to behold.

When I shoot my nudes, and am looking at the images one by one, I can literally see the moment when a subject has forgotten about what she considers her problem areas. She’s stopped slouching, rounding her shoulders or even posing. Lizzi Miller is shown in such a way and she is actually the average size of an American woman. It's about time the high fashion designers, who still show bulimic, pre-pubescent, children as the ideal woman, get a clue.

We all want to look our best and stay fit and healthy and this woman is just that, attractive, fit and healthy. I just hope others take a cue from Glamour Magazine and start using real people as an example of beauty and not these over airbrushed twinkies we still see on the runways.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Now What?

It has been one month since my exhibition, "Censor This!" opened in Harrisburg, PA. My images are now all safely tucked away in my climate control storage unit, hoping to see the light of day soon, either on some collectors wall or another exhibition. But as I sit here contemplating that exhibition, I am also wondering, "What's Next?".
So much time and effort was put into "Censor This!". And now that it is just a fond memory, I feel almost depressed. I was really pumped for the show. A solo exhibition in a gallery miles from my comfort zone, I was going to shock the world and make a name for myself. But now weeks after the show, the phone hasn't rung, no offers of another exhibition have come in and I am left with an almost empty feeling.
Is this what postpartum depression feels like? (For all you women out there I am NOT equating my exhibition with the wonder of child birth. The pains are totally different and I don't have to get up at 3am to breast feed.)
I find myself in a funk, a creative void, were I have ideas of what I want to shoot but am coming up with any excuse at all not to do it.
So now the search for another spark is on. My Red Chair Project is still on going (The Red Chair Project), but with it now starting it's second year of shooting I am asking myself why I started it in the first place.

So here I sit, in my office/studio, camera collecting dust, backgrounds all rolled up and wondering if I have anything left to say and if I need to actually find a job!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Giving Nude Photography a Bad Name

Last week photographer, and I use the term loosely, Zach Hyman tried to photograph a nude model at New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. He had a model hiding out in the arms and armor room until a guard turned around and started walking out, then summoned her in and had her dance around as he shot for 20 seconds. The guard saw this and now model,Kathleen “K.C.” Neill faces a charge of public lewdness.
Hyman has said he’s inspired by nude paintings at the Met and his photos are not pornographic and he has no idea why she was arrested. Her attorney, Donald Schechter says the museum is full of nude art, and to call what the model and her photographer were doing obscenity “is ridiculous.” But no one has called it pornography and this little stunt was done in full view of the museum public which included children.

As a photographer who has photographed nudes in many places, this "photographer" should have consulted with the museum staff and photographed his model after hours. Unless he wanted the shock and publicity this stunt has given him. And of course that is exactly why he did it. It wasn't to create a wonderful artistic statement, it was to get his name out in front of people and get his 15 minutes of fame. His portfolio of nudes in public is nothing more than snap shots of people stripping quickly and the shock on peoples faces when seeing the naked person.
Obviously this has been done over and over again and I don't think Hyman has added anything new to it. In fact he is one of the many reasons that photography and especially nude photography is sometimes not taken seriously.
Whether you like his body of work or not it does not change the fact that what he did in the museum was wrong.
As anyone who has read my blog in the past knows, I am all for freedom of expression. But when that expression infringes on others sensibilities, then you do not have that right. What about the rights of the parents taking their children to the museum that day. Turning a corner and seeing this naked woman dancing around the armor. How do you explain to them why their visit to a prestigious museum has now become confrontational?

As for the legal issue, I do think that the model should be cited and fined as well as Mr. Hyman. She was not intelligent enough to realize that this was nothing but a stunt so she should be penalized for stupidity along with public nudity.

Actions like this do not promote the legitimacy on nude photography, they just are another obstacle.

You can watch the news video here

I am sure we will be hearing a lot more about this and he will probably try it again in another public building. Maybe he'll bring a canvas next time and get the photographers off the hook?

By the way, the image above is not one of his, it was pulled off of a voyeur website.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Successful Exhibition Opening

The debut of Censor This!, seems to have been a success. The opening reception saw over 170 patrons viewing the images and no one ran out screaming! I do kid, but I was concerned that this body of work might be too much for the average gallery patron. It was played up as an erotic exhibition. It received some wonderful press that also eluded to it's content, and the gallery owner played it up beautifully before the patrons walked trough the door as they were greeted by a waiver to sign by a topless Chippendale style doorman. So if they didn't know what they were walking into before, they sure did them.
For those of you who have read the many postings I have written about for this show often. I was a bit apprehensive on it's acceptance. I am now more relaxed now that the show has opened and with the comments I overheard and those said to me directly. People were extremely gracious and accepting of the work and for the most part, got it. Comments ranged form applauding me for being brave enough to show erotic art in Harrisburg, to the photographer must be a gay gentleman because his male models are too attractive!

This show was a success but might not have ever come to light if it wasn't for my family and friends who have supported me in my artistic ventures.

I have to thank a few people who without their help this wouldn't have happened. First of my wife, whose love, support, patients, understanding and a steady brush helped me not only create this body of work but also helped me paint our latex clad hostesses.
I'd also have to thank Jason and the entire staff at the ArtHouse Lounge for putting on a first rate event complete with it's own soundtrack.
I can't forget our lovely hostesses, Lucy and Chast and our handsome doorman, Robert.
I also need to thank a very good friend, Charles, who helped me frame my images and also took the photographs posted on my Facebook profile of the opening reception.
And finally all my friends who wished me well and some of those who actually trekked to Harrisburg to be there, including my wonderful daughter and her boyfriend. I really hope he wasn't too shocked!

The exhibition is on display through August 29th and if you can make to the ArtHouse Lounge in Harrisburg, I would love to know your thoughts on the show.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Confidence, Nervousness and Fear

My exhibition is only three days away and I am going through a roller coaster of emotions.
When this first started as an idea by the gallery owner, I had great confidence in my ability to pull it off. Why not! I have been a photographic artist for over 25 years. This is what i have been asking for, what i have wanted. I can pull this off in spades and set the art world on it's head.
Confidence Meter on it's Highest Level.

Then the photo sessions. With each passing session I saw images that I really was proud that I produced, confidence meter still at high.

Once I decided that I had the images and had an exhibition, then came the printing process. As many of you who have read this blog know, that became an issue.
Confidence meter falling slightly.

Then I was rescued by McKenna Labs who saw the art in my images and help me complete this body of work.
Confidence meter back on high.

Then came the framing. (Thank you Frame Maker II of Feasterville for beautiful mats and frames!)
3 days of cuts, broken glass and second guessing.
Confidence meter falls to the nervous level.

I looked at them again, I think this was the first time I have looked at all of the images together as a completed collection.
Nervousness definitely has taken hold.

Then this morning I get what was supposed to be a very uplifting and supportive email from the gallery owner. Letting me know how much he has invested in this exhibition, how much it means, etc etc.
FEAR has taken hold.

I know I am an artist and without emotions there is no art. For those who know me I can get a weepy at a movie. But when it comes to my work I am pretty confident. OK except when it comes to a solo exhibition. My wife is fond of telling the story of my last solo exhibition where I was laying on the floor of our living room, an hour before the opening saying I wasn't going. I don't remember that happening, she says it's selective memory.

So, at this point we are 3 days, and 19 hours away from what I hope will be a successful exhibition.
How do you judge success? I'll save that for another post!

If you are interested in coming to the exhibition opening reception it is Saturday night, August 15th from 6 to 10ppm at the ArtHouse Lounge, 217 N. 2nd St. Harrisburg, PA For more information you can visit

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

What does it cost to Smile?

I recently returned home from a trip across the country and while I was on the last leg of my flight to San Francisco I wrote this:

I am on the last leg of a trip that feels like I have been traveling for days. Two planes, six hours in the air and plenty of time staring at people in the airports.
One thing I have noticed in all this is that it seems that people have forgotten to smile. Are they upset that we no longer get food on flights? Are they just depressed?
On this last leg of my journey from Chicago to San Francisco I am counting myself lucky that the flight attendant is extremely pleasant and accommodating. Why is this the exception and not the rule?
It seems that most people have forgotten what it is to be courteous, pleasant and polite. Maybe it's all this technology and texting that has removed us from actual human contact that we have forgotten how to be, well human? :(
Cyborgs walking through life avoiding eye contact, looking at the ground scowling. That unfortunately seems to be the norm now a days.
It's days like this that I try to smile even more, be extra polite, go the extra mile. To some I might be a bit off. (No comment from those who know me personally) But when someone actually smiles back I consider it a small victory for the happy people.
Try it, smile at a stranger. It might get contagious!

I would like to that the crew of Southwest Air's flight #1641 from Chicago to San Francisco last Saturday July 25 for making my flight a very pleasant one.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Censorship vs. Artistic Integrity

It seems that my exhibition keeps hitting stumbling blocks the more I try to keep true to my vision, the more our puritanical culture gets in the way.
As many of you who have read these blogs know, this exhibition, "Censor This!" is a group of my more erotic work. I was given the freedom to show this body of work by a very opened minded gallery owner. Jason Pipper, owner of the ArtHouse Lounge in Harrisburg, PA approached me with the idea of this show. The one thing he said to me was "I will not censor an artist, show what you want to show". Now how often does an artist hear that! So I took the ball and ran with it, producing 38 new pieces of work to compliment some of my more erotic existing images. Now since I went digital I really cannot print them myself. My computer is my 21st century enlarger and the lab I use, Miller's Professional Imaging is one of the best in the country and the lab I have been using for over a decade. I am calibrated with Miller so that I get exactly what I see on my monitor. The quality is superb and up until now I have had no issue with them printing my images. When I sent this batch of 38 images to the lab, only 32 came back, that along with the note I have posted above. It seems that someone on the lab floor was offended by my images and refused to print them. It went to their supervisor and then to the CEO of the company who said if you are uncomfortable printing them, then don't do it. He never even saw the images. In fact, the supervisor who called me to explain, never saw the images. He kept repeating the same line, "Miller's will not print those images." My work was censored by a lab tech - from Kansas, no less. It's not like they have to worry about model releases and the great debate about pornography and art that is raging on. All they had to do was print the entire batch. But no, this tech had the power to question the artistic integrity of the images and almost damage my show.
Almost because I was saved. Saved by McKenna Professional Labs. I called the lab and talked to a wonderful receptionist that said as long as there is nothing illegal there shouldn't be a problem with us printing the images. But I was still worried and actually lost sleep over it. Then today I received a phone call today for one of the top guys at the lab. Once he said his name and where he was calling from he laughed and said, "I bet you were expecting this call", I was. He explained to me that due to sexual harassment laws there was a potential for someone to claim that the printing of these 6 images could constitute a hostile environment. I understood, but my problem still was not solved, I still need these images printed. Then he added that since this could be an issue, he would print these images himself to make sure that I had them for the exhibition.
He saved the show and understood the artistic statement I was trying to make. He took it upon himself to make sure that I was satisfied and that I received the best customer service and quality of images that McKenna Labs gives all of their clients. Needless to say I am now a McKenna client for life and will no longer be using Miller's Imaging.
No flat out censorship, just an understanding conversation and a solution to a problem.
If anyone is in need of a professional photography lab I highly recommend McKenna Pro
I want to thank them so very much for saving my sanity and this exhibition.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Mixed Signals

I have been a professional photographer for almost 25 years. In that time I have been a member of the Professional Photographers of America and for the last 5 years I have been a Certified Professional. What does this all mean? Well basically it means I have been paying the PPA dues for a lot of years for some sort of guarantee to the general public that I am actually a working professional. I also get a nifty magazine each month with topics ranging from marketing your studio to new products. Lately all the marketing articles have been on how to market in a slow economy and how to educate the photographic consumer on why they should choose a professional photographer and not an amateur. This would be interesting and beneficial if they really practiced what they preach, but the rest of the magazine is a dumbed down version of "How to be a pro in 10 easy steps". The articles are either of cheap tricks on how to kind of do what a real pro does without having the creative knowledge or hawking new gadgets for those who can't actually use their equipment. They are really starting to try and cookie cutter the industry and make more money for the association in the process. They sponsoring workshops by these so called Master photographers who for $99 can teach you how to shoot like a pro and how to create 50 poses in 10 minutes. So the same organization who was originally looking out for the true professional and pushing unique creative talents now is pandering to the amateurs with a Wal-Mart digital camera. Whatever happened to integrity, creativity and actually learning your craft?
I am a photographic artist, each client is unique and special and I try and treat them that way. But it seems "cheap" is starting to out-way quality and that is something I will not do. I will not compromise my artistic integrity for the sake of a quick buck. That is the reason that as stated in my previous post, that I am stepping back from the commercial retail location and focusing on the special commissioned portraits and weddings for people who expect a professional to actually be someone who has honed and worked at their craft and someone who takes pride in every image they take.
I don't begrudge the amateur weekend warrior but it is shameful that the organization that touts itself as being an organization for the working professional has lost it's own integrity, value and vision.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Press Release - An altering of focus

Photographer refines his focus
Photographic artist Michael Barone has a busy summer ahead of him. With his artwork in three galleries in two states, he finds himself torn between the business of operating a commercial studio and the creation of his art. “I feel like my artwork is suffering as I struggle to support a commercial location.” says Barone, who has successfully operated a full-time commercial studio in Perkasie for over six years.
This summer Barone’s work can be seen in group shows in The Gallery of Fine Photography in Frenchtown, NJ and Side Tracks Gallery in New Hope, PA. On August 15th, Barone's solo exhibit “Censor This!” will be opening at the ArtHouse Lounge in Harrisburg, PA. “With the interest in my fine art photography growing, it seems counterproductive to try to fit in my art with a full-time retail studio. Particularly in this economy.”
Barone will now focus on increasing the number of fine art sessions and commissioned black and white portraits which have become Michael Barone’s signature. The elimination of his current retail space will allow him to focus on his reputation in the arts community while continuing to bring his artistic eye to limited weddings and commercial images on location, all without sacrificing the integrity of his photography.
Barone holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Delaware and over the last 25 years has been shown in numerous galleries and websites both national and internationally. More information about his artwork and commissioned portraits can be found on his website
For information about wedding, portrait or commercial images visit or call 215-453-1208

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The evolution of an exhibition

With my solo exhibition being 2 months away I thought I post an update on it's progress. When this offer was first presented to me by the owner of the ArtHouse Lounge gallery, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to show the work that I have been very interested in shooting and pushing. The gallery has given me complete control to show the work I want, no censoring what so ever. How often does that happen! So with the exhibition being an erotic show, I now had the opportunity to shoot and actually exhibit the type of photography that I really feel is lacking. Honest, truthful and beautiful erotic images.
The first thing I did was go through my existing catalog of work and pull out the images that I felt would work for this exhibition. Once I figured that out I began shooting new work with the idea that they would be in the show. I never realized that as the new work took shape the show would evolve as much as it did.
This evolution has really opened my eyes to how much the censorship issues has stifled my creativity. I have the models who will pose anyway I ask them but sometimes the shoots have stopped short of what I wanted to achieve. So now with basically 2 to 3 weeks left to shoot then another 4 to print and frame, I have to let it all hang out, sort to speak and make sure that these next sessions I do not self censor during the actual photo session.
Currently the show has a nice mix of male and female nudes from mild to what some might call wild.
I know as these next few photo session occur the show may evolve once again.
This has been a soul searching journey into my artwork that I hope many of you have a chance to see.
I will be posting more info as it gets closer but mark August 15th on your calendars!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Interesting art quotes

For years I have been contemplating returning to school to get my MFA degree. Why? Who knows, maybe I feel like I still have unfinished business. But if I ever want to teach I need a masters. A BFA and 25 years practical experience isn't enough anymore. But I digress.
So I received information from The Academy of Art University in San Francisco and there were some great quotes in the booklet I received; I want to share them here.
If it inhabits your dreams and questions your fears, it's art

It it lifts you up in some sort of emotional epiphany or throws your preconceptions to the ground, it's art

If it disturbs you, it's art

So according to them art is everywhere. And the artist is the one who can transform he mundane into magical.

As Paul Gauguin once said,
Art is either plagiarism or revolution.

Let's start a revolution!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Art, not just pretty pictures

I recently read an article that museums now are taking a cue from the video game world and creative an interactive environment to enhance the viewers experience. It's not that attendance is lacking, on the contrary, most art galleries are seeing an uptick in attendance. According to Michael Conforti, curator of the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts.
“People are trying to connect with things that are more stable, that will be here.”

So why are art galleries and museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC and others going to great lengths to remake themselves? Facebook, videogames, coffee shops in Barnes and Noble, these things keep our attention. We have become a culture of lookers not seers who's attention span has been reduced to that of a toddler.
If something doesn't strike us over the head, or is too complex and challenging we just walk away, we can't see what is really there.
As a visual artist I have been guilty of producing work from time to time that is more like a sledge hammer than a subtle breeze. I felt that if I didn't capture my viewers attention right away, they wouldn't spend the time to enjoy the subtle shades of gray that flow over the human form when the lighting was just right. They wouldn't notice that hey, this guy is pretty good.
My wife and I are members of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. We have spent countless hours in the gallery looking at it's collection, but we too are lookers. We rarely go into certain wings of the museum because we just don't "get" the work and don't take time to actually see what it is, what makes this special. So part of what the galleries are dealing with is how do we educate a public. If the public is educated about the art, then maybe they will take the time to see what's there. I am educated, I have a degree in art and have a decent art history background, but works by say the Pennsylvania Impressionists to me are just not my cup of tea. So I haven't spent the time to really look at the work.
Thomas Campbell, the new director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York stated,
“We take so much for granted,” he says. “You walk through gallery after gallery and there’s really very little explanation of certain objects, certain paintings in these rooms. There’s an assumption that you have a general knowledge of the history of European art. Modern technology provides the opportunity to provide more information without turning galleries into intrusive didactics.

To this extent, I have to agree. On a recent visit to the Philly Art Museum, my wife and I were treated to Cezanne and Beyond, a wonderful exhibition of which I have written about before. What made it even better for me was the audio tour. I had on my little headphones and the digital audio device around my neck and as I walk through the exhibition I pressed the number of the painting into the device and received some wonderful information. It truly helped me see the work in a new light.
So maybe this technological shift will bring more people into museums eager to learn more about art. I hopes so, although I still feel that we, as a people, need to really slow down. Don't be so judgmental, and actually take the time to see the world around us. Whether it be Picasso's "Guernica" or a beautiful sunrise off the deck of your summer place. Take it in, savor it, enjoy it and really see it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Elton John CNN interview about America and AIDS

This interview doesn't need my commentary. Please watch it and help by writing your senators or congressman and tell them to help get America back into the fight on AIDS.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Governing Morality

Did you ever have a rash that you have taken care of, used the ointments and creams and it fades and disappears only to come back again? That is what living in small town America as an artist feels like.
Almost 10 years ago my wife and I were driving looking for a house to buy, we drove through this small town, about 45 minutes north of Philadelphia. It was quaint, quiet and so picturesque. It seemed an ideal place to relax, live and raise a family. What you don't see until you actually live and work in a place is the seedy underbelly. The small town politics where a not so big man wants to be even bigger by stepping on everyone else.
That is the situation I am faced with. Six years ago I had a store front studio that was on a commercial street next to the town bar and across the street from a convenience store. The location was not ideal but the space was adequate and my business took off. then I put a very cute display in my window, a woman in lingerie to promote my Sensual Portraits. It was a few weeks before Valentine's Day and it was a solid marketing idea. Little did I know that now, six years later I would still be suffering for that display.
I am now the town pornographer. I have been called that in public by the very people who run this town. The people who are supposed to help and promote small business.
There are numerous vacant store fronts in this town, the slower economy is really felt here and to have this blatant slander happen, doesn't help to promote my portrait and wedding work.
I knew as an artist not everyone would like my nudes, but they are not pornographic, even though personally I see nothing wrong with pornography as long as it is consensual between the models and also legal.
It seems these so called leaders of the community feel that they can legislate morality and use their protections against law suits to slander a businessman who is struggling and whose images they may not particularly like.
So now, I am faced with the rash again, I have moved my studio, removed my art nudes to a separate website but it seems that is not good enough.
last November the liberals in America came out in force to elect a president and Congress that does not lean severely right. But in a town where here a local supermarket is close on Sunday and if you don't go to church on Sunday you are considered odd, censorship and pushing a right winged morality is considered OK.
For what ever reason, the magical switch that a lot of Americans thought would be throw changing the constrictive conservative views of the nation, never happened.
Will it ever? Will we ever change the puritanical views of a nation who is so hypocritical and self righteous? Maybe, I have hope. Just not today, not in small town America and not when you photograph naked people.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Obama Nominates producer to head the NEA

According to the Washington Post, President Obama is trying to make good on his promise to energize and reinvigorate the National Endowment for the Arts.
President Obama yesterday announced his intention to nominate Rocco Landesman, a Broadway producer and theater owner, to head the National Endowment for the Arts. Also, last week, the White House asked Congress to give the NEA $161.3 million in 2010, the highest request in recent years. Currently the NEA's budget is $155 million.
In the 1990's Congress took away many of the individual artists' grants. According to Steven D. Lavine, the president of the California Institute of the Arts and a member of an arts advisory committee during the Obama campaign,said
"It's a wonderful appointment. He will be persuasive and fight for the arts. And the first thing he'd put on the NEA chairman's to-do list would be to "rebuild the individual artists' grants"

“It’s potentially the best news the arts community in the United States has had since the birth of Walt Whitman,” said the playwright Tony Kushner. “He’s an absolutely brilliant and brave and perfect choice for the job.”

Choosing Mr. Landesman, signals that President Obama plans to shake things up at the endowment. While a major source of money for arts groups around the country, it has historically been something of a non entity and in the middle of many artistic wars in the 90's. I remember the firestorm when the NEA pulled it's funding for Robert Mapplethorpe's exhibition, "The Perfect Moment". Blatant censorship on the part of the NEA.
Of course before any of this can happen the Senate has to approve the nomination. Which we all know can be "interesting" at best.

So it is my hope that Mr. Landesman's appointment is the kick in the ass the NEA needs to start providing grants to the art world and keep the arts alive in the USA.

Photo courtesy of Keyur Khamar/Bloomberg News

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Obama's first 100 days and an artist's response

Yesterday this painting was unveiled on the South Plaza of New York City’s Union Square. Artist Michael D’Antuono work, "The Truth" is a politically, socially and religiously charged statement on our current political climate. This image has received a firestorm of controversy since it's inception and the unveiling has just increased the volume of the voices.
As posted in a PRNewsire article:
D’Antuono insists that this piece is a mirror; reflecting the personal opinions and emotions of the viewer; that “The Truth” like beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. D’Antuono expects that individual interpretations will vary as widely as they do in the political arena. The work will be seen by one viewer at a time behind a voting booth-inspired public installation.

The website Artbistro, published the article and allows for view comments. Most of the comments are a resounding negative. It seems that the tone of the comments is clearly divided among conservatives and liberals. The conservative comments are either agnry with Obama and how he has handled his first 100 days, or upset that the image has blatant religious overtones.
One comment by a person listed as Lsf754 stated:
I'm insulted, this is not right. GOD said, " man should not make images of anything on the earth, or the heavens above.......

Where another comment whose name is listed as artifacts said:
This makes my heart hurt. God forgive us.

The more liberal of the viewers were a bit more open with their views. They may have not liked the image as a piece of art, but understood what the artist was going for.
The part I find interesting is that the more liberal comments were much more subdued and calm, whereas the more religious and conservative views were angry, sniping and rude.
Art has always been the social conscious of a nation. The artist can spotlight to the world what is actually going on around us. This painting is a depiction of a man who inherited a country in extreme disarray and in only 100 days has show us that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Do I like this painting, yes. It is a bit preachy and obvious but I understand the artist's point of view.
What's your?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Censorship takes a toll

For many years I have complained about being censored for art exhibitions because of my content. Just ask my wife, she'll tell you how well I play the artistic victim. Nude photographs have their limited audience as far as gallery and exhibitions go. Some galleries will not show photography, some are conservative and won't show nudes. So when I was given a solo exhibition slated for August at the ArtHouse Lounge gallery in Harrisburg, Pa, I was thrilled. The gallery owner is giving me complete freedom to show whatever I like. The theme is going to be a focused on my more erotic work. And since the exhibition isn't until August I have time to create more work. The problem is what do I shoot? I mean I thought I knew what I wanted to shoot and I had a couple models who were open to the idea, but I stopped short. When people ask me about the show I am hesitant when I speak about it. Isn't this what I have wanted for so many years? Isn't this my opportunity to show that erotic images of the human body can be art and not just slammed as pornography. (Not that I have anything against pornography) So why do I feel stifled when I am shooting or tongue tied when I speak about the show?
Have all the years being censored and trying to shoot what will show gone to my head? I feel that now that the handcuffs have been released and I can no longer bitch about being shut down that I have nothing to say. I feel like a bird that once the cage door has been opened doesn't leave, it's safe in here.
The artistic opportunity of my career is only months away and I feel like I am about to blow it because I can't get out of this cage.
When I first starting photographing nudes I was a college student and took all sorts of artistic risks, but after over 20 years in the real world I think the edgy side of my brain withered from lack of use.
Maybe electric shock therapy would help, or a few new people to work with who will say "Shoot me anyway you want."
The next couple of weeks are going to be quite interesting to see if I can break free of the social stigmas that have kept me back.
Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Art and our view of the world

I recently watched a multi-part series on how art has changed the world. From as far back as we can remember, there has always been some sort of art;cave drawings, sculptures and carvings to today's digital imagery - art and images are all around us. The conquerors of their time new how important an images was. we remember the strong jaw of Caesar, one of the first portraits to grace a monetary system. Gates and walls with carvings of heroic deeds to keep the peasants in line and scare off would be invaders. Yes, the image changes what we think of the world around us. Now a days we see something on the news or in a magazine and assume it's real. Even though we know about digital manipulations, in the back of our mind we know Brittany gained 100 pounds over night, or that there really is a Loch Ness Monster. The visual image is that powerful. So when the Obama administration lifted the ban on hiding the images of the flag draped coffins coming back to the US it was a very big deal. For years we have not been able to see this and without the visual proof the statistics of the death toll this war has taken are just that, statistics, numbers. 12 soldiers die by a road side bomb just racks up the death toll tote board. But seeing the metal caskets with the American flag draped over them, coming off the plane at Dover Air force base makes us realize that they are not just numbers but soldiers, people and in a lot of cases, just teenagers, loosing their lives in a war that we shouldn't be in.
The Obama administration has lifted the veil that for far too long has hid the horrors of war from our site. Art is powerful, art is inspiring and hopefully art and the photographic image makes us think. This war isn't over, realize what is happening and don't forget to voice your oppinion and get it to end.
The photo is from the US Department of Defense by the AP

Friday, April 10, 2009

Spring into Art

As an artist and an art lover I had the opportunity this week along with my wife to go to 4 different and wonderful exhibitions.
The week started off with my photographs being featured as part of a group exhibition in the ArtHouse Lounge in Harrisburg, PA. It was First Friday and the exhibition was wonderful, I was honored to be among the artists displayed. This exhibition runs through the end of the month and I welcome anyone in the Harrisburg area to view it and let me know your thoughts.
On Saturday night, we stopped by one of our favorite galleries in New Hope, Sidetracks Art Gallery. We are always surprised and pleased at the collection of art that Ricky and Paul pull together is such a small space. The owners are wonderful people who make you feel very welcome and love the artworks as much as anyone could. I highly recommend anyone interested in contemporary art to visit Sidetracks Art gallery in New Hope, PA and this Saturday the 11th is Second Saturday, so there is always something fun going on.
After Sidetracks, we went over into New Jersey to see the opening of 2 artists who are also friends of ours. The exhibition entitled "Natural Dimensions" features the sculptures of Ron Bevilacqua and the paintings of Christine McHugh. The exhibition runs through April 30th with a meet the artists afternoon this Saturday from 12 to 3pm at the River Run Gallery in Lambertville, PA. Both Ron and Christine are accomplished artists with their own unique views. I am sure there is something for everyone to enjoy in this exhibition so I recommend not missing it.

Finally, on Wednesday, we played hookie from work and went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art for the Cézanne and Beyond exhibition. My wife and I have seen many exhibitions at the Philadelphia Museum but this by far is the finest exhibition we have seen. This exhibition explores the vital role of Paul Cézanne in the history of modern art. Not only are Paul Cézanne's works on display but the works of other great artists whom he inspired were along side his. Including such fantastic artists as Pablo Picasso, Giorgio Morandi, Henri Matisse, Jasper Johns and many others. The shear size of the exhibition was breathtaking with over 100 images, but to see such paintings as "The Large Bathers" together with the great artists that he influenced was simply a wonderful experience. This exhibition runs through the end of May and I highly recommend it to everyone. You don't have to know a lot about art to enjoy this exhibition. The audio tour guides you through it with great clarity and you really get to see things from another perspective.

Spring is a wonderful time of year where flowers are blooming and trees are budding, why not let your mind bloom. Take in an art exhibition this weekend. Whether it's a small gallery in your local community or a national museum. You'll come away with much more than you bargained for, art is inspiring, insightful and beautiful. What better way to spend a Spring day.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

My Photographic Top 10

Ten Photographers Who Have Influence Me

I have been behind a camera for more than half of my life. My vision has changed throughout the years but has always been influenced by those brave pioneers who came before me. Here is my Top Ten list of influential photographers.

1. Eugène Atget (1857-1927)--a French photographer whose images of city life and architecture were more than mere representations but gave the city new life, depth and beauty.

2. Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946)--an artist and entrepreneur who brought photography into the 20th century by showing the world that photography was an art form not just a tool. "The Steerage" (1907) is thought to be the first art photograph.

3. Edward Steichen (1879-1973)--originally a fine art painter, he used his pictorial approach in photography before World War I. He later moved to more straight photography and became a master of magazine portraiture, fashion photography, and advertising imagery. He brought out in the subject more than just the surface. His 1928 portraits of Greta Garbo are recognized as her defining portraits.

4. Edward Weston (1886-1958)--known for his close-ups of vegetables and nudes. In photography he was a "purist" who believed that photographs should be direct and sharp. He is know for waiting hours for the sunlight to be just right often to the spoils of his fruit he photographed.

5. Paul Strand (1890-1976)--was a photographic modernist who along with Stieglitz and Weston, established photography as an art form. Some of this early work, like the well-known "Wall Street," experimented with formal abstractions and influenced artists like Edward Hopper. He also thought photography should be used for social reform and was a founder of the Photo League, an association of photographers using their cameras to promote social and political causes.

6. Ansel Adams (1902-1984)--who not only captured the splendor of the American West but he helped increased the public's appreciation of the art of photography. He also developed the zone system, a way to determine proper exposure and adjust the contrast of the final print. The resulting clarity and depth characterized his photographs. A system that is still in use today even with the advent of digital imagery.

7. Minor White (1908-1976)--who captured things usually considered mundane, and transformed them into something special. These "equivalents" made us look at things in a new way and turned the realism of photography into more of an abstraction. It made us see where we normally only look.

8. Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908- 2004)--who instead of the big box cameras of the day used a small 35 mm camera to capture everyday life and transform these slices of life into beautiful scenes. He really pioneered street photography, a style that has influenced many a photographer and film maker.

9. Jerry Uelsmann (1934- )--created surrealistic images composed of many negatives all blended together to create an allegorical story for the viewer to see. Uelsmann has a suburb skill in the darkroom which many attempt to reproduce digitally today.

10. Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989 )--was as an American photographer who is known for his large, highly stylized black and white portraits of flowers and the nude figure. Often delving into the fetish world and thus becoming controversial.
When one actually looks at a Mapplethorpe image you are taken by the tonal range, beauty of the form and how it relates to things around it. After his death his exhibition "The Perfect Moment" became the lighting rod for censorship. The Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. agreed to host a traveling solo exhibit of Mapplethorpe's work without making a stipulation as to what type of subject matter would be used. Once the curator saw the body of work that included homo-erotic images, they refused to go forward with the exhibition. After the Corcoran refused the Mapplethorpe exhibition, the underwriters of the exhibition, then went to the nonprofit Washington Project for the Arts, which showed the controversial images in its own space from July 21 - August 13, 1989. Unfortunately Mapplethorpe is known more for the controversy than the art, but being one of the lucky ones who was able to see this retrospective exhibition in New York City 1989, I can only say that his work profoundly changed the way I see and shoot.

So that is my list of photographic influences and brief reason why. There are other artists who have also lent to my development as a photographic artist but that list would be much too long for this blog.

Friday, March 27, 2009

New Book - Fluidity

Sometimes it takes time away from something to realize just what you have. A poet once said "Absence makes the heart grow fonder", he or she was talking about love and a relationship but I think it is sometimes the same with art. Whether it's your own collection of artwork that you have purchased or the work you produce yourself, sometimes you just need to get away from it to appreciate exactly what you have.
Thus is the case with my new book, "Fluidity, the strength and beauty of dance".
In November 2007, I had the opportunity to photograph Jackie Starner who was studying dance in Muhlenberg college. When the shoot started I was trying to pose her as she posed for a figure drawing workshop a few weeks early. This really didn't work, so I told her to just dance. Using my typical black background as a blank canvas, Jackie glided through this space with grace, beauty and strength all for my eye to soak in. I photographed over 400 images that day all in a span of about 90 minutes. Anyone who knows me, knows that about 90 minutes is about all I can do before I just get a bit tired of shooting.
So the next day I looked at the images and pulled out one shot that jumped out to me. I printed and framed it and actually had it in an exhibition. I then proceeded to forget about the shoot and got on with other things.
It wasn't until late in February that I was cleaning out my hard drive in my computer, archiving images to make room for new ones when I rediscovered this shoot. As I looked through them, now with fresh eyes, I realized how beautiful the strength of Jackie's poses actually were. It seems I missed the subtle muscle tone that softly let light slide from light to dark along her back. I missed the subtleties of her poses and the emotion they showed. I just missed it, I mean I shot it, but I really didn't see what I had actually shot.
Sometimes you really get too close to a thing and have to step back, take a second look and actually "see" what is there.
"Fluidity" represents not just Jackie doing what she loves to do, dance, but also represents to me at least, that sometimes we really don't see what is right in front of our eyes. Whether in art, or a relationship, we all sometimes take for granted the beauty that is right in front of us, if we would only pay attention and really look.

"Fluidity" can be found on

Monday, March 23, 2009

You know your getting old when...

My post today really isn't about art, it's about getting older. It's something that we can't avoid and is inevitable. Even thought all the commercial enterprises that sell all the creams, potions and pills think otherwise, we all will get old. Personally I don't really mind it and normally don't think about it much.
In just under 2 weeks I am turning 47 and besides the aches in the morning, a couple of medications I take daily and having to read a restaurant menu at arms length, I feel pretty good about it. But this weekend I actually felt old.
I have to preface this by saying I love my friends. My wife and I are lucky to have close friends who are not judgmental, who are warm, intelligent, creative and fun. The kind of people you want to be around.
We went to a dinner Saturday night and were happy to be getting together with them. Good food, good wine and wonderful company is always a great way to spend the evening especially with this group. But for part of the night, the conversation was about things I had no frame of reference to, no concept of what it was, why it was interesting or why it was funny. There was a lot of talk about gaming and "cons" that I really am not sure what the appeal is but I am happy that my friends are into it. Then as they were talking I was just thinking that my 16 year old son would love this conversation. The "Old Button" was hit.
There were spoofs on Star Wars, that they played on a laptop that everyone thought was really funny, except me. All I could think about was how I saw it opening weekend back in the 1977. I was in high school. I think most of our friends have only seen it on video or the new released version. Again, the "OLD Button" was hit.
Even though I was born really before computers and calculators were household items, I really am not that old, but for some reason for the first time I really felt it. I felt the age gap widening. It's no ones fault, and I guess it's a natural progression, but it really seems that the progression is speeding up. I now have my "cheater" glasses at my studio, my house, and in my purse. (Yes, I carry a man purse).
In my professional life, I am constantly hit with the age gap and I am used to it. I photograph models who are my daughter's age, who think that a Playstation game system is "retro" and who really can't tell you what band Paul McCartney was in before now. But again, I expect this and this really never bothers me, in fact it really is humorous. Last weekend wasn't so humorous, it left me thinking about the past and about what have I done with my life. Your middle aged and still trying to figure out what to do when you grow up.
I love my friends and am very thankful that I have them, I am just scared that the gap is widening and I just might fall in.
Luckily I have a wife who is very close to my age and who understands that sitting on a porch with a bottle of wine, me painting or shooting, her knitting, is a really nice way to spend an afternoon. And we'll get them up on the porch with us... sooner than they think.

Post script: If your curious about the image, it was one of my first photos exhibited. I shot it on film and developed it myself in 1982, 27 years ago. I think it is actually older than a few of my friends!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Economic Hard Times Hits Art World

Last Sunday my wife and I were watching "Sunday Morning" a informational program on CBS that touches on news, human interest stores, some sports and the arts. I was struck by a story they reported about Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. It seems because of a huge deficit and the current economic issues that are shaking everyone Brandeis University was thinking about closing its Rose Art Museum and sell off their collection that includes work by such contemporary masters as Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol. It seems that when any school or university be it a local municipal school board or a major university, have a budget crisis, the arts are always the first to go.
“Clearly, what’s happening with Brandeis now is that they decided the easiest way is to look around the campus and find things that can be capitalized,” said David Robertson, a Northwestern University professor who is president of the Association of College and Univertsity Museums and Galleries. “It’s always art that goes first.”

When my daughter started college she attended the University of Florida, a school famous for "Gator Aid". So when I saw the huge football stadium, next to the huge basketball stadium, which was across the road from the baseball stadium, I wasn't that surprised. They are known for their sports and yes sports revenues for a college can be quite hefty as are the salaries in which they pay their coaches. There are over a dozen college football coaches making over $1 Million dollars a year. College Football Compensation Even colleges with these huge sports programs are looking to the arts to cut first before they even think about denting the huge budgets they have allotted their sports programs. Now Brandeis does not have a huge football program, but why would it look to sell of it's wonderful collection of art to balance their budget. The reason I fear is that art isn't important, it isn't needed, it's a luxury. The dean of the collage doesn't see the invaluable resource that they have. The arts are always the first thing that is cut. They are cut from the school curriculum so that some art teachers don't even have a classroom, just a cart they roll around. They are cut from states and federal budgets seriously decreasing the funding that is so needed, and art spending is cut or non-existent in personal budgets. To most people purchasing original art is not even something they think about let alone budget for.
Without art, what do we have. When things get tough, a performance, concert or gallery is a great place to reconnect, a place to have your spirits lifted. Try to imagine a world without art. It's not a pretty place. I know times are tough, I have a hard time producing art let alone selling any, but we can't looking to the arts as the first place to cut to balance a budget. We need to promote, encourage and protect the arts because without them, we really have nothing.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Photographer & the Model

There are many things that effect the outcome of a solid art photograph but nothing more directly than the model. Whether it's an artistic image where I am trying to portray a specific feeling, or a commercial image where the model becomes the "face" of the product, the model can really make or break the shoot. A good model is one who trusts the photographer's eye but can also bring some life to the photographer's vision. This might sound like a DUH moment, but the model is so much more important than a lot of photographers want to admit. I have had the wonderful opportunity to work with hundred's of models from amateur to professional and have really only had a hand full totally not be in sync with my vision. On the other hand, the correct model has been able to transform the scribbles in my sketch book and add life and emotion to them.
There are times,especially when dealing with new model's that a shoot never occurs because well they just don't show up. That is kind of the reason I am writing my blog today. A shoot was schedule for a commercial client and the models got back to us at the last minute saying they couldn't make it. So not only do I have an upset client, but I am out money and time that I can't get back. I really wish that more of these "new" faces really take this seriously and realize what is at stake. being a professional photographer, I rely on serious professional model's to help my ideas take flight.
Anyone interested in modeling? drop me a line, I am ALWAYS looking for new people.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Radio Interview, this Friday February, 27th

One of my participants for my Red Chair project was a woman who opened "Feminique Boutique", an upscale destination for sexuality and romance enhancing products and services in West Chester, PA. She is also the host of a weekly radio program, "Sex and Sensibility with Jill McDevitt" on WCHE 1520 am radio. Ms. McDevitt has been brave enough to ask me to be a guest on her program this Friday afternoon, September 27th. The topic she has chosen is "Naked photography, Art or Porn".
From her website:
Sex and Sensibility with Jill McDevitt is a the venue for intelligent
conversation about all things sex, with a variety of interesting guests
from polyamorists to sex therapists, prostitutes to gynecologists.

Hostess Jill McDevitt is a local sexologist and owner of Feminique
Boutique, a female-oriented sex shop in West Chester, PA. She has a B.A. in
Sexuality, Marriage, and Family and is now earning an M.Ed in Human

So this should be an interesting interview, taking the photographer who has been photographing the nude for 25 years and who has been called a pornographer by the Perkasie Borough council, and asking him his thoughts on the subject.
Now anyone who knows me knows that I will get out my soapbox and will go on for hours about art, pornography and censorship. The program is only 30 minutes long and they are accepting callers so I need to keep my comments brief. Easier said than done. If you are interesting to hear me try not to make a fool out of myself, please tune into WCHE Their website has a live feed and it should be interesting. This is your chance to call in and ask me any questions about my art or the political ramifications of art and pornography that you want answered. Well at least to hear my side of the story anyway.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Hello again- Yes, two posts in a row, can you imagine. But this is important. Since President Obama was sworn in, there has been a flurry of activity in the White House, from GitMo to the economy, his new administration has be tirelessly tying to get us out of the hole the last administration dug. Was it a hole or a grave?, anyway so while reading more art news I cam across this article on Art Bistro. I am copying the article below.

Valerie Atkisson / ArtBistro February 04, 2009

One of the most controversial measures of President Obama’s stimulus package is his aid to the arts. “Singers, actors and dancers can stimulate audiences, but can they stimulate the economy? The authors of the current stimulus package seem to think so — they have included $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts and $150 million for infrastructure repairs at the Smithsonian.” says Elizabeth Blair, NPR.

That is a lot of money to the NEA, a government agency that has be limping along for decades on a shoestring budget. Who will head up the NEA? Obama has not named his choice yet. We will have to wait and see who the NEA chief will be.

Artists and arts organizations have been struggling in this recession. Many have closed their doors due to a dry up in private donors. NPR points out:

“Michael Kaiser, head of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, says the arts industry is made up of thousands of small organizations, so they don’t always make headlines when they go bankrupt.

“The arts as a totality in this country employs 5.7 million people,” Kaiser says, “so we’re not a small sector of this economy. Our employment levels are important to this economy.”

The Obama administration seems to agree. Bill Ivey, former chair of the NEA, was on the president’s transition team. He says the agency is included in the package because it already has a system in place for moving money into the economy.

“The NEA really can give away money efficiently and effectively and quickly through a very responsible, peer reviewed, grant-making process,” Ivey says."

As part of The New Deal President Roosevelt stared the WPA that gave thousands of artists jobs. Al Giordano reports, “To get the United States out of the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt launched various stimulus programs to get people to back to work, most importantly, from 1935 to 1943, the Works Progress Administration (WPA). As part of the WPA, the Federal Arts Project (FAP) created work for 5,000 of America’s best artists who painted murals and posters, sculpted and created more than 225,000 works of art, mainly in state and local government buildings. (Contrast that 225,000 number over eight years with the just 119,000 grants by the NEA over 38 years, and you can get an idea of the scope.)”

Obama supports the arts and this stimulus package makes that clear. We have yet to see how the money will be used. Perhaps much depends on the next NEA cheif.

So as an artist I applaud President Obama sticking to his guns and promoting the arts. Even closer to home, I hope to be applying for a grant to help finish my Red Chair series of images. I have photographed 60 people so far and need at least 40 more to complete the shooting process. Interested??

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Cézanneand beyond comes to Philly

Well, this post will get us back on the art track!
My wife and I are members of the Philadelphia Art Museum. For less than $10 a month we have a family membership which gets us admission to the museum, special members tickets to exhibitions and of course a discount in the gift shops!
If we weren't members we probably would miss so many wonderful exhibitions.
Opening on February 26th is "Cézanne and Beyond". An exhibition about the importance of Cézanne in France and on the art world.
From the museums website:
This exhibition features forty paintings and twenty watercolors and drawings by Cézanne, displayed alongside works by several artists for whom Cézanne has been a central inspiration and whose work reflects, both visually and poetically, Cézanne’s extraordinary legacy. These artists include Max Beckmann, Georges Braque, Pierre Bonnard, Charles Demuth, Alberto Giacometti, Arshile Gorky, Marsden Hartley, Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Fernand Léger, Brice Marden, Henri Matisse, Piet Mondrian, Giorgio Morandi, Pablo Picasso, Liubov Popova, and Jeff Wall.

So whether you've never been to the Philadelphia Museum of Art or have been to the museum a hundred times, there is always something wonderful and enlightening to see, feel and enjoy. It is a great way to expand your horizons and give back to the local arts community.
For more information, check out he museums website for their calendar of events. PMOA