Archive for December, 2009

2009 in Review

December 28, 2009

I usually don’t like year-end review blog posts but I was inspired by Dalton Rooney’s post to do just that, except that I’m going to start in 2008, with this photo:

Ally, October 2008

In October of 2008 I started shooting large format again. I say again because I’d actually acquired an 8×10 and a 4×5  view camera all the way back in 2002.  I used them occasionally until I moved into a tiny apartment in Manhattan and focused my life elsewhere.

I wanted to take portraits. Back in 2001 and 2002 I’d shot portraits in my apartment in Brooklyn. Here’s my dad in 2002, for instance:

My dad, 2002

Right away I liked the results with the large format camera [a Busch Pressman 4×5 outfitted with a modern 210mm lens]. I like looking at pictures of other people. If they’re people that I know, even better. I like taking pictures of friends and family because even if they’re never going to be interesting to other people, they’ll still be interesting to me.

Not too long after that I got a used Mamiya 7 on ebay for a good price. It’s a great camera for walking around the city. It’s about the same size as my dSLR but was actually cheaper and gives me a 6x7cm negative. I went and revisited chalet-style houses that I’d featured on my other blog with the idea of doing a series/typology. I figured it would, at least, be a good excercise.

Chalet Style House in Buenos Aires, January 2009

I was interested in Chalet style houses because they’re everywhere in Buenos Aires and yet I’d never seen them in any images I’d seen of the place. People here  view them as an imported style [which, originally, they are]. But like ranch homes or McMansions, they’ve become a local style. There’s some really fantastic ones like this mega-Chalet in Flores near Rivadavia and Nazca:

Mega-Chalet in Flores, January 2009

I spent a lot of the southern hemisphere winter walking around Flores, Caballito, Villa del Parque and other outlying neighborhoods taking pictures of Chalet style houses. The series, as it stands now, is here on my website.

I would usually only go out and take pictures on cloudy days since it made the details of the architecture easier to see. This meant that on sunny days I’d mope around, depressed because I had nothing to take pictures of. I started taking taking pictures of corner vegetable stands. They’re usually in the shade so sun wasn’t an issue. Here’s one I liked:

Verduleria on Avenida Medrano in Almagro

I shot a few rolls with an old Mamiya C220 that I also own. I thought the 6×6 format would give the series a more formal look. Eventually, though, I didn’t like the photos enough. I’ve put the series on hold and I still mope around on sunny days.

In April I returned to California to visit my family. Since I really liked the portraits I was taking with the 4×5 camera, I took out my 8×10 camera from storage and brought it back down with me to Buenos Aires. The camera is a Calumet C-2, affectionately known as the Green Monster for its size and weight. The camera had been in storage for six years. Before storing it I don’t think I had taken more than half a dozen photos of which only one was actually in focus. The first picture I took with the camera upon returning was of my boyfriend Vagner:

Vagner, May 2009

I was overjoyed that the photo was in focus and properly exposed. Working with an 8×10 camera is a pain in the ass. It’s big, heavy, tedious and expensive. The only plus is the photos. Oh, the photos… Still, I think I had to make every possible mistake at least once.

Graciela, June 2009

It didn’t help that the camera was a piece of junk. I ruined a bunch of photos because the rear standard didn’t hold the film holder tightly in place, leading to light leaks like those in the photo above. I kept thinking it was the film holders that were the culprit. Eventually I realized I needed to hold the glass and the holder tightly together while pulling out and inserting the dark slide. That solved the problem but of course, I made lots of other mistakes too:

Pablo, July 2009

I usually shoot in natural light. My apartment gets this great direct sunlight in the afternoon. I put a bedsheet over my living room windows and I’ve got this giant softbox. Unfortunately in winter the sun goes down at 5pm, which is breakfast time for most Argentines on weekends. Pablo showed up two hours late and so I decided to use a flash and umbrella. To save battery power I made test shots  on my digital camera at 1/8th power with the intention of increasing to full power for the 8×10 shot. I forgot to up the power so the photo came out 3-stops under exposed. I’ll admit, the result has kind of an interesting effect to it, but it sure wasn’t my intention.

Eventually I worked out most of the kinks and now most of my pictures are coming out in-focus and correctly exposed. Now, however, I’ve started to run out of friends and family to photograph. I’ve started recruiting people for portraits:

Emmanuel, November 2009

I’ve started on a couple of series but it’s slow going. The portraits on my home page are actually a mixture of friends and people I’ve met for the purpose of photographing them.

Meanwhile I’ve continued to wander around the city when I can with my Mamiya 7. I still photograph Chalets when I find a particularly good one but I’m also interested in other stuff too:

Apartment building garden on Paraguay & Ravignani

LaFerrere & Espartaco in Flores

Building on Martin Pescador in Villa del Parque

In October I decided I needed to cross the city limits and take more pictures in the suburbs of Buenos Aires. The conurbano, as it’s known, has a bad reputation for crime and I do think about the sanity of what I’m doing [most of my local friends tell me I’m crazy]. Basically I’d pick a train line, ride out to some random stop and, if the area didn’t look too pesado, I’d walk 5 or 10 blocks into the neighborhood. Here’s a few pictures:


Car and house in Santos Lugares

Taxi agency in Burzaco

I used the Mamiya C220 because it’s older and cheaper and I’d miss it less if it got stolen. I’m not crazy about the square format however and I now regret not having shot these with the Mamiya 7. These photos are part of my Buenos Aires Hybrids series on my website. Really, though, I think these photos are part of a much larger project documenting the greater Buenos Aires area. Each of these photos is the beginning of a series in and of itself. This will be a focus for me in 2010.

Now what really excites me is shooting 8×10 in color. Back in July I packed up the green monster and the tripod and took the 55 bus to Caballito to take this photograph of Graciela, the mother of a friend of mine. It was the first color photo I took with the 8×10 and also the first time I took it outside of my apartment:

Graciela, July 2009

Looking at the contact print was really seductive, even more so than black and white. As I like to tell people, it’s like a drug only more expensive. Between film and processing each photo costs me about $20. Also, the film isn’t available in Argentina so I have to rely on a network of friends to bring me film from the US. Also, the Calumet C2 is really more of a car camera. It’s just too big and heavy to lug around the city in a backpack. I returned to the US again in September and bought a Wehman 8×10, a light weight field camera that weighs about half of what the Calumet does.

And so now I’m actively looking for people and places to photograph. Here’s a couple of my friend Andres just recently:

Andres on his balcony in Villa Crespo, December 2009

Andres' consultorio (he's a psychologist)

I also want to do more more portraits on the street:

Carlos, November 2009

Meanwhile during 2009 I shot stories for The Argentimes, learned about photojournalism (amongst other classes that I took), helped out with a friend’s fashion production, started shooting small commercial jobs, and totally redesigned my website (the biggest part of which was getting my negatives scanned, for which I have to thank Diego at Luxel).

I’m excited about the coming year I think my goals for 2010 are pretty clear; more conurbano, more 8×10 in color.

Tranqui Yanqui for Sudaca Photos

December 23, 2009

For the last five months I have been taking an introductory photojournalism seminar with Don Rypka of Sudaca Photos. Our task in the class was to find a story and produce a photo essay on said subject. I chose to follow Nick Mahshie, a painter and visual artist from Miami who lives here in Buenos Aires and works under the artistic name of Tranqui Yanqui.

For our last meeting, all the students of all his seminars got together at a theatre in La Boca and watched slideshow projections of each student’s work, accompanied with music. Here’s my slideshow. The music is “Pikatxu” by El Remolón, an electronic cumbia artist featred on ZZK Records.

Granted, watching an embedding video while hunched over a computer is not the same thing as watching it in a darkened theatre. I personally hate slideshows on the web for this reason. So in case, like me, you lack the patience to watch the video, here’s a link to the same photos on my website, no flash and all on a single page. And if that’s not enough, my story was selected to be featured on Sudaca’s website.

Don Rypka is a legend in the photographic community here in Argentina. He’s an American who’s lived here since 1987 and was for many years director of photography at La Nación. Prior to that he worked as a war photographer covering conflicts in Central America. I’m pretty certain photojournalism is not the direction I want to take in my photographic career, yet I felt that it’s an important discipline and worth learning. Studying with someone so knowledgeable and experienced, week after week, ripping my photos to shreds, is an incredible and wonderful experience.

Just a quick anectdote, one week, in response to a photo that didn’t quite come out right, I complained that Nick,  my subject, moved very fast when he was working. Don paused and asked quietly, “…and bullets?” I suddenly had this image of Don as Chuck Norris, catching bullets with his teeth between clicks of the shutter. As they say here in Argentina, me mató.

Finally, Nick Mahshie’s work as Tranqui Yanqui is clever and extremely creative. He paints with loud, tropical colors, incorporating popular elements from both American and Argentine culture. I can’t thank him enough for letting me tag along and be his paparazzo these last few months. Please do go check out his blog and if you’re in Buenos Aires, try to catch one of his performances.

Emma Livingston – Tree Portraits in Buenos Aires

December 20, 2009

Emma Livingston is a British photographer active in Argentina. Her series  Tree Portraits depicts individual trees struggling to grow on sidewalks in Buenos Aires. Since I’m so interested in architecture and houses, I enjoy the series as much for the background details; the doorways, the electricity meters, the broken sidewalk tiles, the faded graffiti, the orange trash cans, etc.

© Emma Livingston

© Emma Livingston

© Emma Livingston

Premio Foster Catena

December 15, 2009

© Raquel Chávez

Currently showing at the Ernesto Catena gallery, one of the few art galleries in Buenos Aires dedicated to photography are the winners of the 2009 Catena Prize for Contemporary Photography, which shows emerging photographers active in Argentina. The brochure from the show states:

…this is a juried competition with highly unusual characteristics: a) it selects groups of works that constitute essays, series or editions rather than isolated pieces, and b) by granting each artist an entire wall in gallyer, it exhibits works to the privilege comprehension of the larger project.

The show is up through February 20, 2010 so if you’re in Buenos Aires during their summer, go check it out. They’re located at Honduras 4882, Tuesdays thru Saturdays.

Here’s a list of the winners and their websites or Flickr streams [if I could find them]:

Raquel Chávez [flickr]

Victoria Diaz Azcoaga

Andres Knoblovits

Geraldine Lanteri

Nadia Lawson and Juan Sebastián Bruno

Cecilia Lenardón

Leonardo Marino

Federico Marión

Jerónimo Mazzola

Malena Pizani

Now Featured on GayRomeo

December 14, 2009

Screenshot of GayRomeo profile page

Sometimes my friends will use one of my photos as their Facebook profile picture. I always take this as a sincere compliment because it’s a concrete action, not just kind words. I recently found out that the guy in the 3rd picture on my portraits page is using the photo on his GayRomeo profile [it’s a gay hook-up site popular in Germany]. I think this is fantastic! I get a thrill putting my pictures out there in the world and seeing where they end up. I hope the photo works for him 🙂

Vagner’s Videos: Stefhany and her Volkswagen Crossfox

December 13, 2009

I hate it when bloggers on a very specific subject decide to throw in random, off-topic YouTube videos of some song or cute pet trick. Having said that, this is exactly what I am going to do now by introducing a new feature; Vagner’s Videos. While I spend all my time reading artsy photography blogs, my boyfriend, Vagner, is usually watching stupid, funny videos on YouTube, usually from Brazil.

The first installment is Stefhany Absoluta and her Volkswagen Crossfox:

It’s a forró-pop cover of Vanessa Carlton’s A Thousand Miles, accompanied by a home made video showing Stefhany [ie. Stephanie but spelled different], a young singer from Piauí, in Brazil’s impoverished northeast, seeking solace after being dumped by driving around in her Volkswagen Crossfox, a mini SUV sold mainly in Latin America. With close to a million views already on YouTube, Stefhany has become famous in her home state and the subject of campy jokes in more cosmopolitan São Paulo [where Vagner’s from].

My favorite detail in the video is that Stefhany has braces. It’s charming. Someday I hope to do a series of portraits of Brazilian adults with braces [there’s lots]. I think it says a lot about the country, in a good way.

Martin Rubini’s Enanos

December 8, 2009

Martin Rubini´s photographic projects cast an ironic eye on various aspects of Argentine society. I especially enjoyed his series Enanos which is a series of photos of simple houses all of which have garden trolls in their landscaping. What I enjoyed most about the series, in fact, were the houses themselves. While not as crazy and kitschy as Marino Balbuena’s, they are imbued with a subtle weirdness that is both completely ubiquitous here and mostly unrecognized. Be sure to also check out his series of quiceañera photos. I wonder if he got model releases?

© Martín Rubini

© Martín Rubini

© Martín Rubini

My Mom was Awesome

December 7, 2009

My mom rolling down a hill, 1970 © Jerry Hobbs (my dad)

My contribution to the current blogospheric zeitgeist, My Parents Were Awesome [let’s see if this gets published].

And yes, my mom WAS awesome, rip.

Marino Balbuena – Casas

December 3, 2009

© Marino Balbuena

Sometimes I feel like no one outside of Argentina has any idea what this place looks like. All those international commercials filmed in San Telmo and Diagonal Norte do not represent what 90% of the country looks like. Argentine photographer Marino Balbuena has a new website with wonderful projects showing this more daily reality with portfolios of kitschy houses, vacation homes, and male hustlers [!!]. In my own walks around the outer neighborhoods of Buenos Aires I occasionally come across the style of tile pictured above, which I’ve dubbed “azulejo safari” and it always stops me in my tracks.

But the two photos that really bring a smile to my face are these two, title “Duck Season” [Temporada de Patos]

Temporada de Patos I © Marino Balbuena

Temporada de Patos II © Marino Balbuena


December 1, 2009

Paulo, August 2009

I’ve added a portraits section to my website. This is a small gallery of black & white portraits of friends and acquaintances, taken with an 8×10 view camera in my apartment. I wasn’t going to post these on my website. The portraits are very personal and I don’t feel like I have much of a discourse for talking about them. Basically I like looking at photos, of friends, the more detailed the better. There’s nothing better than an 8×10 contact print for detail, so the idea was to make simple portraits to satisfy this desire.

I’ve been posting these photos on my Facebook page and tagging the subjects. It’s been interesting to watch the accretion of comments and the dialogue that’s created between me, the subject and their [usually snickering] friends.