Black+White

I read an interesting article about the Society of Political Psychologists’ annual meeting where one presenter delivered a paper predicting that over the course of the next few decades that the number of real, western-style democracies will shrink until only a few small hold-outs remain, but only as shells of their once former glory.  In their place, the author Shawn Rosenberg suggested that right-wing authoritarian populist governments will pop-up like mushrooms after the rain.   


Democracy is devouring itself and we're to blame.


Freedom is hard-earned and demands more from us than we have become accustomed to giving.  We don't read anymore.  We don't take the time to devour information, assess it's meaning and decide what is true and what is false.  We've retreated to our own corners favoring the soft-bubble-wrapped safety of our social media feeds where we always have a friend who agrees with us and likes our post even if it's shit, or wrong or bad.  We don't confront real problems but rather judge from the untouchable position of behind a keyboard defaming anyone who isn't liberal enough, or conservative enough or gay enough or woke enough. 


Why would we do it any other way when this way is so easy?  


And that's the issue.  Democracy requires discipline, logic, intelligence–all of which are hard earned qualities if they are capable of being earned at all.  One could argue that with the huge influx of information provided by social media that we have a more democratic system in place with an electorate capable discerning more of what is "happening" now more than ever, but what has transpired is almost the opposite.  Instead of a consensus to major newspapers and television stations filtering through the bullshit and arriving and varying opinions about something that is fundamentally true, we've blown-up the entire carefully constructed, truth-filtering safety-net. Blown it the fuck-up in fact. Instead, we opt for our social media to inject (dis)information directly to our feeds and into our heads (since we’re totally addicted to our phones), reinforcing that which we believe to be true so that in the end, it becomes true regardless of whether or not it is in fact, factually true.  Bucking against that trend and figuring out what is *really happening* and what it *really means* takes time and work and effort all of which our modern conveniences have told us we no longer need.  Our news gets prepackaged and Postmate'd directly to our phones like two hour Prime delivery of celery, beats and carrots for our latest juice cleanse.   


This isn't because of Trump, this is because we're lazy, undisciplined and stupid…


And we want so desperately to believe that we are smart and right and understand everything happening around us even though the world is so complex that we desperately need the smartest people around us to explain what the fuck is actually happening.  That would mean an admission of guilt.  That would mean admitting that we don't know or can't explain, or didn't bother to try to figure it out.  When people are left to figure it out for themselves in these echo chambers they migrate towards simple solutions and who offers simpler solutions that the right-wing, populist authoritarians?  It's the immigrants, it's the liberals or it's the gays or blacks or the women with their pesky bodies and abortions.  


Democracy demands that we are tolerant.  Democracy demands that we be understanding.  Democracy demands we share our country with those that look different that we do, love different than we do, pray different than we do and ultimately think different than we do.  It first and foremost requires an unwavering acceptance of the fact that Democracy is the most important societal framework in a citizen's life–that it sits atop all else–a religion before religion.


Authoritarianism requires only one thing, blind faith–believing in the doctrines of the leader with no need of proof, or justification, just the sole requirement of loyalty.  


Unwavering loyalty.


Once he's secured that loyalty, the leader will tell you who and what to fear.  Only the leader can save you from those scary black people coming to steal your shit or those pesky liberal women who only want to kill unborn babies.


'White+Black' shot on a Mamiya6MF on Kodak Tri-X, pushed +2 at the Icon. 


Gleaming the cube

I fell in love with the works of Ai WeiWei over the course of last year.  I was late to the party–something that my friend Tim was more than eager to point out.  I hadn’t seen Disposition and when I saw Forever, photographing both the piece and the people viewing it, I didn’t have any idea of whom it’s creator was.  When I started reading about the trio of shows he was having in Los Angeles I made sure to make it to all three and I made this image at the Zodiac show.  


The works were staggering.  While I took it all in, looking for my images of people taking it all in, I felt suddenly brow-beaten.  Looking at these amazing pieces, sweaty and gleaming with a creativity which could only be divine intervention and wrought into being by hands which absolutely have six fingers each, it was hard to not focus a little bit inward.  


When I passed the Chrystal Cube, I stopped cold.  Then after a minute of just standing there, gazing into this incredible object there came a moment of clarity. I had a small chuckle, moved the camera to my eye and made the image above.  It was almost like Ai Weiwei was speaking directly to me in that exact moment–showing me how my reality was being distorted and the perception of what is perfection is not a reflection of me but of my wantonness of something that is simply an illusion–an ideal that no one achieves.


Gleaming the cube, shot on my Mamiya6MF on Kodak Tri-X, pushed +2 at the Icon. 


The process

When I saw this wall of sketches by Jesper Waldersten at Fotografiska in Stockholm I was completely in awe of the dedication it takes to ones art to make sketch after sketch after sketch, searching desperately for that spark—for that connection to a feeling that goes as quickly as it comes. Even more incredible was that in creating these iterations, Walderstens’ process transcended it’s individual content and in my mind actually became the art—at least for me, no single sketch was the focus. The derivative of the combined hours spent toiling over paper searching for the allusive thread tying the vision together become the manic center of it all. The process becomes the art when you see it in It’s entirety. It though of all my sheets of negative in binders and how a wall of them printed would look. Before the moment lapsed I made this image to remind me of that the process can be both the journey and the result—that the derivative matters and that the hours count.

The process, Sthlm 2019

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