2010 photos

•January 26, 2011 • 1 Comment

Here are a couple of my more recent photos, which you can see more of at rclam.blogspot.com. Unfortunately, this WordPress theme limits the width of the photos so they appear really small here. I’ve been going back to film recently and am much more comfortable with the medium.

Click on the images to enlarge them, or just visit the link above.


 

 


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Snapixel Magazine

•January 26, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Since October I’ve been involved in a San Francisco start-up, a photography magazine called Snapixel that features local and international work from up-and-coming photographers alongside established artists. Snapixel itself had been in production for over half a year before I was brought onboard. The former model of the magazine was to publish individual photographs or small sets of work in twos or threes, from contributors. Interesting in terms of a wide variety of images, but it didn’t add too much to the feeling of continuity in the magazine.

The magazine had very little writing in its early days and I was brought on to fix that problem. Starting out as merely a writer (albeit… for the entire magazine), my role developed into something of a jack-of-all-trades as I tapped into my design, interviewing, and research skills to help flesh out the rest of the magazine. We now focus on a couple featured editorials each issue, with additional short pieces and photo spreads.

As is with any start up, things were a little tough at the beginning with conceptualizing the magazine, the tone of the writing, the design, the kind of work we wanted to feature, but I’m really proud of the end result! Our upcoming February issue is pretty delicious, I must say, and I’ll post a link on this blog when it’s released.

So that’s what I’ve been doing in the past few months. I’ve moved on to a new endeavor, but I’ll still be involved with Snapixel in writing and design, and probably content generation. For this blog, I’ll post up some info, photos, and links to the different photographers I’ve worked with, so check back in a bit.

Here’s our previous issue if you want to check it out (Click and it will send you to a site where you can flip through the pages):

*Be sure to read the article (or at least look at the photos) about Jamie Livingston, the man who took a Polaroid every day for 18 years. Amazing dedication.

 

 

Josef Koudelka

•September 29, 2010 • 2 Comments

But I believe that that the truly creative periods are those when you live with intensity. If you lose intensity, you lose everything.              – Josef Koudelka

What is the source, the impetus, for creativity? For some it is the love of beauty which drives them to create, for others it is the need to be different and the desire  to express their individuality which drives their ever-changing creative forces and outlets. Then there are some who create out of necessity, whose troubles, demons, and incessant questions egg them on in their art, music, or writing. For many creators of art (whether it is literature, painting, photography, etc.), I believe it is this subconscious attempt to answer to questions about life that fuels creativity. Perhaps writers do not directly tackle the question of life in their novels, but the themes of humanity, truth, equality, nature, and others, are direct consequences to the questions of life and existence. For what reason do we seek truth, and by what standards do we determine equality? If we discover them in their purest forms, will we attain happiness? For that matter, perhaps true happiness is unattainable–why is it that some men are easily satisfied, while other go through their lives tortured by money or ideas? The natural inequality that is programmed into humanity seems to be a tantalizing riddle that promises eternal happiness if only one could figure out how to fix it, or at least how to subvert it.

Or perhaps the meaning of life is contained within a photograph of morning dew, of natural sunlight in a peaceful glade. Or of an impish child grinning while sliding down a hill of dirty ice.

In any case, that was a bit of a long tangent, originally I had merely wanted to discuss the characteristic intensity of Josef Koudelka’s photography. The quote at the top is from an interview where Koudelka discussed where his drive for photography comes from. Known to be something of a nomad, Koudelka’s photography took him from the Russian invasion of Czecholslovakia in 1968 to France, England, Italy, and various other European countries.

Czech citizens stands on top of a Russian tank during the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia.

You can see from each of these photographs that there is an intensity and exploration of danger, the dark undercurrents of life. The edgy and hard feel of the photograph comes not only from its content but also from the positioning of the objects in the photo. The tank seems to be crawling towards the viewer, its barrel angling out from the top of the image yet simultaneously growing larger and giving the photo a three dimensional feel, as if the barrel could at any second swing towards the viewer and fire at will. One can imagine how close Koudelka himself must have been in order to capture this shot.

The following picture follows the same train of thought; it uses sensational subject matter, prominent diagonal lines, and multiple observing figures. The man in the foreground of the photo is testing a rocket, his left leg partially obscured by smoke, giving him an unnatural look. The crowd in the background of the photo and hanging off the balconies show that the event being photographed is something of a spectacle. The men in suits are all in motion and facing several directions, some looking at the crowd and others at the photographer. The confusion of the photograph adds its uneasy feeling, and the black, ‘stern’ suits coupled with the rockets (and all of the connotations they come with) lend the image a dangerous, military feel.

Spain, 1971

Rakusy (Gypsy Boy)

Lisbon, 1975

The photograph below of the old men in Ireland reads almost like a surrealist painting. Its beauty lies in the confusion that it creates with the simple placing of a few old men in a corridor. The figures clad in long coats are anchored in diagonal lines by the man at the far end, moreso by his even and wide-set stance. The viewer is in fact, the ‘fifth’ character in the photograph.

Ireland 1976

France 1987

This last photograph is probably one of Koudelka’s most famous. The image seems simple at first; there is a black dog on a snowy field. But the image is intensely captivating. The stance of the dog is tense and he seems about to spring into a run. The lack of detail on the animal renders him into a black mass, albeit with the crisp edges of a dog. The true black of its form, contrasted by the true white of the snow, gives the image an eery feel. What is the dog doing, and why is it alone in this empty field? The dog almost seems to be a specter encroaching on mankind, or humanity, as represented by the buildings in the far horizon of the image.

What drives Koudelka in his photography is not known to anyone but himself, and could probably never be articulated clearly even if he wanted to. But it is clear that the intensity with which he approaches life and photography is what electrifies his images and brings him, if not happiness, then perhaps an exploration of how he looks at life.

One of my favorites

Blogspot.

•March 29, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Things have been crazy since getting back from London, what with my final semester, thesis drafting, writing, re-writing, etc. I’ve still been photographing, but as of last week, moved all of my personal photography to: http://rclam.blogspot.com/

I feel that, unfortunately, there seems to be a lack of interest in the act of reading, and something of a laziness for scrolling through posts filled with words to get to the images. So. I created a blogspot account to display the photos with a more limited narrative.

However, this blog will still be kept up with more musings and writings on photographers, visual design, and other things of interest for those who do like the writing, thoughts, and opinions. Thanks for reading! I swear I’ll start posting more again soon. (But in the meantime, check out rclam.blogspot.com!)

Just one of the many new photos up...

last days in london

•January 22, 2010 • 1 Comment

As I sit here in my room, post-London, with the rain beating down my windows, layers upon layers of clothes on, and the freezing cold making my toes curl inside of their slippers, I think to myself, ‘Isn’t California was supposed to have good weather?’

By some sad turn of events the weather here in sunny CA has taken a turn for the worst (or maybe I just brought bad weather back with me), and has somewhat strengthened my belief that London–at least in winter–is pretty much the same as Berkeley, except with snow and less friendly people. In any case, I think it would be unfair to London if I proclaimed judgment right now; I should visit again in the summer months (I think fish&chips and a pint of IPA would be enough to sway me positively).

Anyway, during my last two days in London I tried to hit as many museums, historical attractions, and local favourites as possible, which resulted in me feeling like some kind of one-man-monster-tourist-bus-on-legs while getting a London tour book stuffed down my throat. Nevertheless, I made it through with minimal scars and only slightly cranky.

Day 6:

Entrance to the British Museum. Oh the British, swashbuckling thieves and plunderers..

My first stop was the British Museum, which was, unbeknownst to me, merely on the other side of Russell Park and less than 10 minutes away from where I was living. Even arriving promptly at 10 am when it opened, there were already quite a few people there, many of them parts of school and tourist groups. The museum was really quite imposing, but at the moment all I seem to remember is that there were guards posted around the grassy lawns to make sure we didn’t step on them.

Central lobby of the museum.

And here we have the central lobby of the museum that you see just as you enter in from the main gates. That large cylinder building is the Prints room where scholars and researchers can look at the museum’s archives and materials. Standing at the foot of the of the large cylinder and looking up into the glass ceiling, it almost seemed as if the building was sprouting insect-like wings in preparation for flight, or perhaps the underside of a giant mushroom. In any case, it took a lot of patient waiting and fielding of random questions like, “are you Korean?” and “where are the maps?” before I could get a clear photograph with only the security guard in the picture.

Room for Chinese artifacts.

Being short on time, I had to choose wisely where I would visit first (spanning endless centuries and countless countries, dynasties, and cultures, the British Museum is very much like the appendix of a very thick and rather dry history book). So naturally I chose China. I must admit that while perusing the glass cases, I every so often snarkily thought to myself that the British probably stole everything in the collection, but then again, who knows if they would still be intact if they had been left in China. The photograph below is of a set of warriors, horses, and servants that were found in the tomb of a Chinese official or aristocrat.

Statues 'found' within a burial site.

Though I’m not much of a Chinese history person, everything I saw here was amazing. Oddly enough, it made me think of all the Chinese ancient history dramas and movies that I’ve seen recently. Here are some other items that attracted me.

Replica of a Chinese house and courtyard.

Fingernail guards for the court ladies. Think Gong-Li in the Curse of the Golden Flower film.

The British Museum also had a small gallery devoted to Chinese jades and jade-making. The collection I believe is actually owned by some very, very wealthy Chinese gentleman, and is currently on loan to the museum. There was no photography in the jade collection, but here is one anyway.

A jade frog.

Afterwards, I made my rounds in the museum and saw most of the famous articles in the museum, such as the Rosetta Stone, the giant sphinxes from Assyria, the Roman and Greek statues, and more.

The Rosetta Stone. Learn French! Learn Spanish!

Inscribed on the floor of the lobby, unnoticed unless looking from above.

From an overhanging on one of the upper floors, I happened to stop for a breather and saw this quote. What, is the point of history, you ask? Let Tennyson tell you for me.

Of course, no morning is complete without some mishap, and as I attempted to leave the museum, the fire alarm suddenly went off and all of the visitors were locked in for 30 minutes while the staff tried to figure out if anything was on fire (more probably, if anything got stolen). Luckily I was still indoors when the alarm went off, great hordes of suckers people were ushered outside into the cold courtyard to wait it out, and all came rushing in like a relieved exhale of air when the doors were opened.

Poor tourists stuck in the courtyard while the investigation was taking place.

Westminster Abbey was the next stop. I didn’t make it for the tour, apparently they stop pretty early on the weekends. Luckily I got to go listen to Evensong (the next day), which was a combination of a sermon and the Westminster choir performing hymns. The entire process from the ruffles on the choir boys’ dresses to the blessing of the Queen and the royal family was much more ornate that anything I am used to, and seemed almost anachronistic, but I appreciated the opportunity to be exposed to it. Religion is an iffy issue to many, but the appreciation of music and of the uplifting of the spirit through it, is really underrated.

Westminster Abbey

Front entrance of the Abbey.

A short distance away are the famous Houses of Parliament. Who knows what kind of work actually gets done in here, but I’m sure walking in and out of such a majestic place on a daily basis would make me feel important too.

Parliament buildings. Oh look, it's that angry looking Oliver Cromwell.

Vertical is not vertical in this photo, but just pretend you're looking 'up.'

Next stop, the London Bridge. I had already been warned that ‘it’s not that great’ but really, the London bridge is just. a. bridge. According to the very helpful Tube worker, most people go to the Two Towers bridge and think it’s the London bridge because it looks cooler. And it opens up in the middle to let boats pass through. So I went there too.

The underwhelming London Bridge.

The two towers bridge.

Across the other side of the Thames I saw the Tower of London, but by this time I was too tired to physically drag myself over there (even though I really did want to see where Elizabeth I was locked up) so I contented myself with this photograph.

The tower of London, where all the grand political prisoners of the day were held.

The last stop of my tourist-on-crack day was Borough Market, a kind of half outdoors half indoors farmers market with the most amazing selection of foods and drink. The first half of the market was for fresh vegetables and fruits, as well as poultry, fish, and other meats. As I was passing through the stalls, one butcher called out, “RAHBBITS! Miss wouhld yeh like some rahbbits? Two rahbbits for NIHNE pounds!” and as I stopped and stared, half of my brain thought he wanted to sell me some pets.

Borough Market

It doesn't get fresher than this.

Cupcakes, muffins, cookies, tarts, and eclairs...

The best thing I had there was spiced mulled apple cider. On that cold and dreary day, with the sun just setting behind the tube station and that cup of cider in my hands, I felt that there was no way apples could be put to better use than this.

Needless to say, day six of my London-ian adventures was the most tiring as well as the most accomplished (in the non-academic sense).

Day 7:

Unfortunately, in my last day in London, I could not for the life of me, get my camera battery to charge. Therefore there are very few photos from day 7. I suppose it was a good thing then that I visited less places. In the morning I went to the most famous flea market/farmers market in London, Portobello Market. It was raining rather heavily when I set out and all throughout the first half of my walk down Portobello Street, but luckily by the time I got to the food stall section of the street, the rain had petered out and I found this genius stand selling mini churros. For only three pounds I got a giant cup of churros sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, and a mini cup filled with melted dark chocolate to dip them into. Aside from the British scones and tea, this was probably the best food I ate.

Churros with sugar and cinnamon, and melted chocolate to dip!! Not my hands, by the way.

Then I stumbled upon a cute, friendly old man who collected antique toy figurines of the kind you’d imagine young boys in the 1920s to have paraded around. They’re all very small, maybe about one inch in height. I bought one of an English soldier playing the trombone for my dad.

Tiny antique toy figurines.

Afterwards, I made a trip to the Tate Britain (sister to the Tate Modern). Having been severely disappointed by the Tate Modern, I was glad to see that there was some solid artwork here. A large portion was devoted to family and aristocratic portraiture (which I actually like), and there were some really good John Singer Sargent on display, among others. If only the Tate Britain would remodel and expand its downstairs cafe, which currently reminds one of a crowded AC Transit bus #51 on a rainy day, the place would be amazing.

The Tate Britain. This was the room filled with painting about the apocalypse. By far my favorite room.

After the Tate Britain I went to listen to Evensong at the Westminster Abbey (which I talked about above), and then went to Oxford Circus and shopped at the pre-eminent store for fashionable adolescent and twenty-something Londoners: Topshop. I have no photographs, but trust me when I say it was a four-story zoo.

Last Day:

Well, more like last morning. Having packed up everything the night before, I took my time checking my room and making mental notes of my stay in London. Despite the cold, snow, and grumpy people, I felt myself regretting having to leave and dragged my feet a bit as I checked out. Stepping out of the front doors, I prepared for the biting wind but was amazed to see, for the first time since I landed on London’s clammy shores–the sun. How teasingly did it peek out from behind the stick-barren trees on the morning that I was about to leave. I would stick it to the man if there was one, but instead I grabbed my camera, ready to use the last drops of battery to capture the beautiful outpouring of sunshine. Which was when I realized that my lens had, in the course of transportation, broken just at the point where it connects to the body of the camera.

London is lovely.

And perhaps it was meant to be that I had no camera on that morning, that I was forced to look at the city removed from the lens and the frame. And that the sun beating down on me with every step I took towards my return destination was a blessing rather than a mockery, beckoning me back with every glint of shine that I saw reflected on the church rooftops as the train thumped its way back to London Heathrow Airport.

the British Film Institute and ‘Pop Life’

•January 18, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Having gone to the British Library Newspaper Depot, the Victoria & Albert Museum, and the V&A arts archive, my last stop was to the British Film Institute (BFI) where I was to watch some television clips and documentaries about 1950s fashion. These were all featured as a part of the V&A’s Golden Age of Couture Exhibit (which is currently traveling abroad), and were great in that they provided a firsthand view of how people felt about fashion, couture, glitz, and glamour, in the postwar years. (You’d probably agree that most contemporary television shows are a good reflection of our current society, so therefore analyzing old reels provides good commentary on the thinking of that time.)

Going to the BFI led me to the Southbank area for the first time and I had a glimpse of the Thames as I was trying to find the entrance to the BFI. (I ended up walking across almost the entire bridge before realizing that the BFI was on the side that I had just left.)

The BFI Southbank, National Theatre, Globe Theatre, and London Eye are all around the same area. It was very pretty in its gloomy, wet, Charlotte Bronte type of way, but I think the walk would've been much nicer if it were sunny.

I got a bunch of clear shots of the river because it was so rainy that none of the tourists wanted to come out.

The BFI was like a ginormous, glorified version of the PFA (Berkeley’s Pacific Film Archive), it had its own posh cafe with really brightly embroidered pillows and sofas (I wanted to sit on them but I got scared when the French waiter glared at me since I didn’t order anything. So I went to sit on the red bench next to the entrance), it had several theater screens, a full-fledged restaurant, conference rooms, and a Mediatheque center—which was my destination. Inside the Mediatheque center was about 10 to 15 or so of these large monitors that were attached to individual sofa-like seats. Some fit two people and had a small table while others had only one seat. The seats were super soft and comfortable, and with the lights dim it seemed like a mini movie theater. It’s an amazing place that holds all kinds of old television shows, programs, and movies for the viewer to watch for free. It’s an amazing place that holds all kinds of old television shows, programs, and movies for the viewer to watch for free. I wish there were this kind of resources near me in the US; I’ve never seen anything as nice (especially for free).

Photography wasn't allowed so I had to sneakily take this photo. Good thing the girl at the counter had her own headphones and wasn't paying attention to me at all.

A view of the BFI's entrance. There's a BFI IMAX nearby too, a big circular-looking building where I just could NOT find the entrance... maybe it's from underground?

After a couple hours of watching 50s era shows, I left and walked along the Thames for about 15 minutes towards the Tate Modern. Even with the gloomy clouds threatening me from overhead, it was a pretty nice walk along the river.

The random backsides of some buildings had the Greek muses' names painted on them. Awesome.

How adequate that they are next to each other 🙂

Finally I got to the Tate Modern, (basically London’s version of the MOMA) where they were showing a special exhibition called ‘Pop Life’ which, from the advertisements, I thought would be mostly about Japanese pop culture. Sadly I was mistaken and though there was one room featuring the work of Takashi Murakami (the man who has done projects with Louis Vuitton, Kanye West, Pharrel, etc), the rest of the exhibit was an excessively glamorization of the superficial and the sexual. A lot of emphasis was placed on Andy Warhol, whose image was plastered across nearly all the walls of the exhibit, and though the show tried to argue that the importance of Warhol was his ability to bring art to the public and combine commerce and art (as if there have never been museums, and as if no one had ever bought a painting before. somewhere. anywhere.) But Warhol’s real contribution to art was his manipulation of it into a saleable, superficial, mass-produced entity, and his ability to make himself into a commercial product (kind of similar to the way Paris Hilton became a ‘famous superstar’ after her degrading sex scandal). Several of the rooms were rated ’21+’ and consisted of pornographic images and sculptures that I cannot, in any sense or idea, consider to be a form of ‘art.’ I do believe that the nude form is beautiful and can be represented beautifully through art (Greek and Roman sculptures, figure drawing, for example), but this was in no way beautiful; the best way to describe it would be voyeuristic. To be frank, I have never been a great fan of modern art. Some people say that it’s considered art because it challenges the status quo (ie. toilets can be art), and I respect this idea. I just don’t subscribe to it, just like I don’t think pornography is art.

One of the entrances to the Tate Modern.

A blow-up version of one of Takashi Murakami's miniatures at the entrance of the exhibit.

A view of the Thames from the balcony of the Tate.

But enough of my personal diatribes against modern art. The dozens of schoolboys who were there appreciated the exhibit much more than I did (don’t worry, they didn’t get into the 21+ rooms). Visiting museums seems to be much more of a part of British educational culture. At nearly every single museum that I went to, there were literally dozens of kids with sketchbooks drawing the paintings and sculptures as part of their assignments. Why didn’t my teachers ever have me do that…

And on the walk back to the tube station, I passed by a random tunnel on the street with these brightly pulsating light bulbs pasted firmly like colorful checkers on a wall, and couldn’t resist taking a photograph despite the busy stream of people around me.

The walls underneath an overpass, on the side of the street. Bright, colorful, strangely arresting (not good for car drivers. Good thing I was the only was distracted by it).

first snowfall!

•January 15, 2010 • 2 Comments
day 4.
(this is kind of a long post, but a lot of photos!)

this is a cat and a bird. in snow.

 SNOW!! I woke up to lots of snow pouring outside my window, and I stood there with my jaw slacked for a while, wondering how to cope with this new development. Eventually I decided that, yes, I can defeat snow, and just piled on three extras layers to my normal three and stepped outside with my camera. My last memory of real snow was about 3 years ago during a retreat to Tahoe when I unfortunately encountered a blizzard and was forced to wait in a McDonalds for four hours, and then help someone put on snow chains on the side of the road on a mountain under heavy snowfall. So I was a little apprehensive… but this snow was different. There was a lot that piled up on the railings outside the building and when I poked it I realized that it was actually really soft, like thick moss on a stone. I poked a lot of holes into the snow right there outside the door, anyone passing by later would’ve wondered why the snow was deformed.

You could make awesome taiwanese shaved ice dessert with this.

I was really excited by the snow, and since the Victoria and Albert art archives didn’t open until 10 am, I went to the nearby park to… MAKE A SNOWMAN! It was interesting how there was no one enjoying the snow there, I guess they were all to busy doing real things like going to work and class. So I kneeled down next to the snowy bench and made a cat. 

A really nice old man laughed at me after I told him I was making a cat. “Oho! A pussycat? Give it some eyes! No. put more snow there. More snow.” But the cat got lonely so then I made a bird. A little kid, maybe 2 years old, came by with his mom and stared at me intensely. But other than the old man and the kid, no one really seemed to care, they were probably wondering, who is this delinquent that’s skipping class… Eventually some good man who has an appreciation for great artwork stopped by just as I was admiring my handiwork and asked me, ‘Did you, make that?’ and then ‘That’s very nice indeed!’ Haha! I impressed a Briton. 

I modeled it after my cat at home. I think this just about rivals anything I saw at the British Museum.

The wings and beak are made out of tiny leaves. The snow itself looks very moss-like after it's just fallen, I don't know if you can tell from the photo.

To congratulate myself I got a full English breakfast at this little pub cafe. For £5.20 I got a latte, eggs, toast, bacon, sausage, tomatoes, mushrooms, and beans. It’s Denny’s! British style. The lady selling the food was nice and called me (and I think everyone else) ‘bella.’ A lot of old people came in to get a cup of joe and read the paper. It was a relief for them, I think, to get out of the snow.

nom.

 

Seemed to be popular with a lot of locals, so it must be good.

The breakfast place was right next to Russell Square station. 

The tube is amazing. BART should upgrade to something like this.

 

Anyway, then I went to the John French archives and spent about 4 hours looking at prints and press cuttings from Vanity Fair, interesting to me but probably not so interesting to read about. Here’s where they were located: 

Blythe House near Olympia. Ever MORE security than the Brit Library Reading Room. I went through 2 heavy gates, 1 security desk, and 3 locked doors to get to my destination. Jeebus.

One of the journals with press cuttings.

 Like the day before, all of the materials had to be brought up in separate boxes, ordered 3 or 4 at a time. Once the boxes got to the front desk, you can take out one book or one folder at a time for viewing. The objects are weighed before handed to you, and then after you hand them back, I guess to ensure that you didn’t steal any random bits of photographs or paraphernalia. Everyone in here looked extremely intese, as if they were researching to write the next great British novel or something—especially the tubby old man with the gold glasses and bushy mustache, wearing a tweed jacket and multi-colored scarf.

Loose misc. photographs... I can't believe I actually got to see the contact sheets for these photos! This one above is especially famous, of French and one of his models. Photography nerds, are you with me??

Afterwards I decided to go back to the Kensington area to take another stab at shopping, since I felt a lot better than the day before (I really should’ve gone to Oxford Circus, didn’t realize until a couple days later that that’s really where the shopping epicenter is).

If I were rich I would've bought the entire outfit on this rack, plus the boots that were below it.

I did end up buying a few small items that were all on sale. At first I thought that I hit the jackpot because everything was on January sale, but then I remembered the pound to dollar conversion rate and was sad (it’s about £1 to $1.69). Half the week, over!

There's construction going on everywhere, on the tube, the streets, all the tourist attractions..