Alger - Jardin d’Essai

Alger – Jardin d’Essai

Where there is an open mind, there will always be a frontier.
~Charles Franklin Kettering.

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Photo by Marcia Wilson/Widevision Photography

When I began my career as a book publicist, Calvin Reid was the first journalist I met in person. His warmth and wit, his disarming charm, and his knowledge of the book publishing industry cannot be underestimated. As Senior News Editor of Publishers Weekly, the premier trade publication, Mr. Reid has been at the forefront of the major changes in book publishing for the past thirty years.

More than a reporter, Mr. Reid is a businessman. He understands the nature of the medium to the point that he has been a central figure in the rise and success of graphic novels as a genre of publishing. But more than that Mr. Reid is an artist himself, which came as a wonderful surprise to me as we spoke at length for The Click.

Mr. Reid observes, “I always loved books as a kid. As a job, it was a pure accident. They used to call book publishing, ‘The Accidental Profession.’ A lot of people entered the profession from very disparate fields. Often they started in business, and couldn’t bear it any longer. They made career turns and lucked into publishing. I came about it the same way.

“My background is as an artist. I have a BFA in Art Education with a minor in Photography from Howard University, and an MFA in Printmaking from the Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. I came to New York to be an artist. I arrived June 7, 1981. I continued to produce etchings and lithographs as well as drawings after I moved to New York and I have exhibited widely in New York and in shows around the country. Moving to New York and meeting and marrying my wife were the two best decisions of my life. My plan was to find a way to work and to do the artist thing. I got a job as a temp; I was a “Kelly Girl” (laughs). I worked for Kelly Services in different places including Matthew Bender, which is a legal publisher. Later I switched jobs and became a typist at Library Journal, which eventually led to me becoming a journalist.”

Read the Full Story at THE CLICK.

Guzman: Black Rose

June 26, 2014

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Transition is always a relief. Destination means death to me.
If I could figure out a way to remain forever in transition,
in the disconnected and unfamiliar, I could remain in a state of perpetual freedom.

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Sometimes I come to hate people because they can’t see where I am.
I’ve gone empty, completely empty and all they see is the visual form:
my arms and legs, my face, my height and posture, the sounds that come from my throat.
But I’m fucking empty. The person I was just one year ago no longer exists,
drifts spinning slowly into the ether somewhere way back there.

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I lean back and tilt my head so all I see are the clouds in the sky.
I’m looking back inside my head with my eyes wide open.
I still don’t know where I’m going; I decided I’m not crazy or alien.
It’s just that I’m more like one of those kids they find in remote jungles or forests.
A wolf child. And they’ve dragged me into this fucking schizo-culture,
snarling and spitting and walking around on curled knuckles.

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Darkness has completely descended onto the landscape and I stood up
and stretched my arms above my head and I wondered what it would be like
if it were a perfect world. Only god knows. And he is dead.

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Bottom line, each and every gesture carries  a reverberation that is meaningful in its diversity;  bottom line, we have to find our own forms of gesture and communication. You can never depend on the mass media to reflect us or our needs or our states of mind; bottom line, with enough gestures we can deafen the satellites and lift the curtains surrounding the control room.

Photographs by Guzman
Quotes by David Wojnarowicz

PUNK: An Aesthetic

June 25, 2014

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Do It Yourself. The ethos of the punk movement that began in the 1970s with a kind of we-ain’t-got-no-money joie de vivre. Style is using what you have at your disposal and putting it to work; being crafty, creative, criminal if need be. Turning everything on end to what end? Perhaps just notoriety. But is that such a bad thing? Asking questions, turning heads, upsetting applecarts—in many ways the punk aesthetic forever altered our assumptions about progress by taking back the means of production and giving it to the artist themselves. Whether music, fashion, graphic design, photography, typology, illustration—so many categories revitalized by the outpouring of art students in our brave new world.

Punk: An Aesthetic, edited by Johan Kugelberg and Jon Savage (Rizzoli International Publications) is a beautifully produced collection showcasing the development of a visual language that has become a lexicon of street style that has been standardized by youth culture around the globe. Here, Kugelberg and Savage present some of the most famous and infamous examples of the punk aesthetic. It is all here: the record covers, posters, newspapers & magazines, flyers, t-shirts, comic strips, collages, and all sorts of ephemera of the era, including a manuscript page from The Great Rock & Roll Swindle screenplay (1977). Here, page after page features photographs of all sorts: concerts, promos, portraits, and snapshots, energies filled with casual glamour and teen angst, a theatrical display of sight and sound that, when it first appeared, shocked polite society.

As Kugelberg writes in the book’s introduction, “Punk, like hip hop, in an odd way was about performance—about Saturday night, getting loaded, elegant swagger, and the unfiltered nihilism of romance.…. The legacy of punk is simple: the immediate implementation of D.I.Y. grassroots culture among the young. No distance. Form a band, start a blog, become an artist, a DJ, a guitar player, and editor. There is no meaning stemming from authenticity: an authentic experience occurs, regardless of whether or not the art produced id authentic.”

The photographs featured in Punk: An Aesthetic reveal an exciting dialogue between design, type, and imagery that is one of the hallmarks of the movement’s style. Among the most notorious images is Jamie Reid’s Sex Pistols poster for God Save the Queen: here Queen Elizabeth II’s face is covered by text and set against the Union Jack, at once exalting her, defacing her, and questioning our assumptions about the monarchy. In this image we see the royal portrait subverted in the service of a greater purpose and here punk shows its true colors. Punk: An Aesthetic reminds us that creativity is heightened when economy is bad because we must look inside ourselves in order to speak truth to power about the times in which we live.

In Jamie Reid’s “Death Culture Stalks the Suburbs” we see the style at its height, appropriating the 1950s happy home and turning it on its head, literally, with a skull at the center of the sunken living room, where a coffee table should be. And the couple speaks to each other, in comic book bubbles, with words written on a typewriter in capital letters, and then at the bottom, a summary of the story of Nigel and Cecilia and the skull, which had first appeared as, “a blurred image on the thick pile carpet, but as the weeks progressed it materialized and solidified behind the crushed velvet pouffe.”

Heavenly creatures, each of these pieces turns out to be, each with its own story and style, taking on the here and now, the supernatural, the unnatural, the years of past, present, and future. Punk is the liberation of imagination, the independence from becoming a market acquisition, by becoming the object itself and thus it must be experienced—rather than consumed, as a capitalist market would demand.

Here, as with the performance of music, experience of dance, and the appearance of style and fashion, we give of our time and energies to be part of the scene, to connect with the people and the art being produced in the most intimate of manners. Punk breaks down the barrier between audience and art, and encourages the audience to participate so that everywhere we turn, everyone and everything becomes a part of the greater whole. Punk is art in its purest sense; it is about taking what you already have and fashioning it into an expression of self.

First Published 19 October 2012
LE JOURNAL DE LA PHOTOGRAPHIE

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The poet's hand by Ralph Gibson, 2005

The poet’s hand by Ralph Gibson, 2005

Max Blagg arrives, apologizing for being but a few minutes late, his British accent quite debonair. He steps into the salon, sitting on the sofa, allowing Glitterati mascot Alfrieda the basset hound to snuggle on up, as he recounts the adventures of an Englishman in New York.

“I was the youngest of twelve children. We lived in a small town in the English Midlands. We were working class. There was lots of love. It was a great family. But I was the only one with the inclination to read books.

“I started writing at 15, a gift that was triggered by my sister dying of breast cancer, a slow motion event that happened at home. It was truly awful. Writing poems about her pain seemed to give me some relief. At the same time, I was becoming interested in girls. A bizarre collision of sex and death. Looking back, I wrote a lot of pretty bad poetry back then. But I also played soccer for the school team. I had a double life.

“In my house, higher learning was not encouraged. It was that working class mentality: Don’t expect to rise above your station. At 17 I passed the A level exams and qualified for college. My mother had no intention of letting me go away, but I secretly applied and got into a college in London with a very generous government grant. The poorer your parents were, the more money you got. That would never happen today.

“I wasn’t that comfortable in London, it’s under the sign of Capricorn. But after almost getting a B.A. degree I met a lovely girl at a jumble sale who gave me lots of American poetry to read. I was so entranced by Frank O’Hara that I quit my job as a bricklayer’s laborer and bought a one-way ticket to NYC. I had one address, 118 Spring Street. I want to put a little plaque on that building. I showed up there, and Ignacio and Caroline, kind folks I hardly knew, put me up for months. We’re still close friends. Soho back then was deserted, a playground for artists. I got a job in construction on 53 Street, Street, across from MOMA where Frank O’Hara had worked. New York, miraculous place. Instantly felt like home.”

Read about Mr. Blagg’s life as an Englishman in New York at THE CHIC.

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Janette Beckman and I meet Dapper Dan in his brownstone in Harlem on a sunny day in April. We are in the sitting room; the wood is dark, the ceilings are tall, the art is African. On a bench laid before us is a child’s suit in red and white leather, boasting the name ERIKA. Beside it, red and gold cap is perched, with the double FF logo of the great Italian fashion house Fendi prominently displayed. The cap is an inverted trapezoid, in the style made famous by 80s emcee Just-Ice. The gold F shines bright, catching my eye over and over again, until Dapper Dan enters the room and commands my full attention. Dap wears a long sleeve shirt, vest, and slacks with spats all in shades of cream and brown; against a skin of rich mahogany, Dap carries the look effortlessly, befitting a man of his stature and renown.

For those in the know, Dapper Dan is a name of distinction. It stands for quality and style. It stands for a way of living that is equal parts art and business. It is the name that defined the sartorial style of uptown in the 1980s. Dapper Dan is Harlem, from his cap to his spats to the way he stands straight. Dapper Dan is the man who Africanized Europe’s luxury brands. Gucci. MCM. Louis Vuitton. These were the logos and insignias he silkscreened on skins in the studio above his shop, which was open 24/7 on 125 Street for ten years.

After printing the skins himself, Dapper Dan employed a team of Senegalese to create custom apparel for the body, as well as for the car. A haberdasher to the stars of Harlem World, everyone from the streets came calling, whether hustlers, gangsters, Hip Hop artists, athletes, or simply those with an eye for the flyest, freshest, most cutting-edge styles. Dapper Dan’s work was worn by everyone from Mike Tyson, Run-DMC, and Bobby Brown to LL Cool J, Salt N’ Pepa, and Eric B. & Rakim. Paid in Full, indeed, ‘cause Dap gave no discounts whatsoever on the merchandise.

Dapper Dan’s pieces were as original as his techniques. His most famous piece, a parka known as the Alpo Coat, was made for Alberto Martinez, one of the most famous drug dealers of the era. It featured double pockets in the front, all the better to hide or dispose of something, like a gun. Violent crime in New York was skyrocketing, with the murder rate hitting an all-time high in 1991. Crack was the nexus between money and murder in those days, and as a result, some customers had special needs. Kevlar lining was added to the lining of coats at a client’s request.

As Fat Joe recalled in The New Yorker, “I remember going to a club in Manhattan and walking in with my Dapper Dan suit, the red-and-white Gucci, with my jewelry. They were looking at me, like, ‘Who is this? He gotta be somebody.’ And I wasn’t famous—I was just a nigga with a Dapper Dan suit. And that suit made me famous.”

Mark Twain memorably said, “Clothes make the man,” and if there was one man who defined the styles of the times, that man was Dapper Dan. I asked Dap about how Twain’s words made him feel, to which he replied with great heart, “Yo! That’s my thing. You hit it right on the head now! To make people. They knew that. To create something that’s going to make you. You see it every day in Hollywood. They looking for that thing that’s going to make them. You see that Busta Rhymes come here, and Puff Daddy come here, and they say, “I want that 80s look!’ They are looking for that sensation, that crack. They are looking for that crack. I want to give them that crack and they feel like, ‘Whoa, I am here.” Like that Cadillac.”….

The full story appears in the Summer 2014 issue of Jocks & Nerds.

Photograph by Jim Jocoy

Photograph by Jim Jocoy

It was a Saturday evening in May 2003. The place: Robert Evans Beverly Hills home and estate. The occasion: Brett Ratner’s forthcoming book Hilhaven Lodge was being showcased during Book Expo America by powerHouse Books. The crowd included Jeff Bridges, Sean Combs, Ashton Kutcher, and Joel Grey. Patrick McMullan was taking photographs. Tanqueray martinis were being served. But all of that happened later in the evening—after the surprise guest had arrived.

As photographer Jim Jocoy remembers, “It was exciting from the moment I arrived. I remember going over early, before the guests had begun to arrive, when it was only that staff setting up for the event. I remember turning into the entryway and seeing security there. The front of the residence was modest. I walked into the foyer. The main room was grand southern California: high ceilings and couches hugging around the room. To the right was a hallway with collection of framed photographs. I spent some time looking at them.

“I remember I was looking through the front window and I saw a black Rolls Royce pull up. I didn’t see who was in it. There was a bush obstructing my view when the door opened. I leisure returned to the front door, and walked outside. I asked [powerHouse Publicity Associate] Jose Ortiz who had arrived. He told me.

“Michael Jackson.

“Oh My Gosh! I was still low key. I wanted to see so I leisurely tried to stalk him, very casually. I decided to go explore the estate, to walk around and see for myself. I remember walking out on to the estate property and seeing how fantastic the water fountain was, sprinkling into the pool. And the tennis courts, where the Kennedy had played. I really soaked in his Architectural Digest style, including his wife at that time, who was tall, statuesque, and blonde. She had the presence and the power of the lady of the house.”

Read the Full Story at THE CLICK.

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I ain’t got no home, ain’t got no shoes
Ain’t got no money, ain’t got no class
Ain’t got no skirts, ain’t got no sweater
Ain’t got no perfume, ain’t got no bed
Ain’t got no mind

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Ain’t got no mother, ain’t got no culture
Ain’t got no friends, ain’t got no schooling
Ain’t got no love, ain’t got no name
Ain’t got no ticket, ain’t got no token
Ain’t got no God

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And what have I got?
Why am I alive anyway?
Yeah, what have I got
Nobody can take away?

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Got my hair, got my head
Got my brains, got my ears
Got my eyes, got my nose
Got my mouth, I got my smile
I got my tongue, got my chin
Got my neck, got my boobs
Got my heart, got my soul
Got my back, I got my sex

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I got my arms, got my hands
Got my fingers, got my legs
Got my feet, got my toes
Got my liver, got my blood

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I’ve got life, I’ve got my freedom
I’ve got the life

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I’ve got the life
And I’m gonna keep it
I’ve got the life
And nobody’s gonna take it away
I’ve got the life

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~*~

Photographs by Liz Gomis
Lyrics by Nina Simone: Press PLAY

A quiet and somber evening in West Africa. (at Monrovia, Liberia)

A quiet and somber evening in West Africa. (at Monrovia, Liberia)

L I B E R I A (at Liberia West Africa)

L I B E R I A (at Liberia West Africa)

What lies behind you and what lies in front of you,
pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Photographs by Jeremy Snell

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Photograph by Anne Menke

Anne Menke first began taking photographs at the age of 8, using her father’s cameras to take pictures. She recalls, “By the time I was 12, I decided I wanted to be a photographer. My Dad got me my own camera.”

Ms. Menke’s mother and grandmother owned a boutique. Their sense of fashion, style, and panache definitely rubbed off, as Ms. Menke went on to shoot for Vogue, ELLE, and Marie Claire, while her sister became a stylist. For Ms. Menke, chic is more than a word; it is a way of life.

Ms. Menke recalls her first job in photography was at 16 years old, apprentice in a wedding studio: “It’s not what I wanted in the long run. But every day, I would be in the waiting room, paging through copies of Vogue, and it was then that I decided, ‘I will work for Vogue.’

“I am from a small town in Germany. I left middle school at 16 and went on to get my degree at 19. I moved to Dusseldorf, where I assisted fashion photographers for two years. Then I started out on my own .I began by testing models and I showed these tests to an advertising agency. The gave me a job, and a year later, I decided to move to Paris. I realized that was the next step, and I lived there for five years. Then I went to New York. And now, I am in Mexico. I have a passion for traveling and for reportage.

“When I was younger, I studied photographers like Alfred Eisenstadt and Henri Cartier-Bresson. These are the books that I would but and look at when I was16, 18, 20 years old. My ideas about fashion came from that sense. I looked up to photographers like Peter Lindbergh. I saw where I wanted to go. I stopped copying and developed my own style.”

That style, one that is as vivid and lush as a rose garden flushing with blossoms and blooms, is exquisitely captured in Ms. Menke’s first monograph, See the World Beautiful (Glitterati Incorporated). Her photographs taken on location while traveling the globe while on assignment are what could best be described as fashion photojournalism. Ms. Menke’s eye is our guide as she takes us to the four corners of the world, showcasing the glorious sensibilities of native dress in its element.

Read the Full Story at THE CHIC.

drink to me

April 30, 2014

Pablo Picasso by Gjon Mili

Pablo Picasso by Gjon Mili

Tunnel's Doug Schneider rips the Kahuna Pool, 1976 - Photo: Bobby Smith

Tunnel’s Doug Schneider rips the Kahuna Pool, 1976 – Photo: Bobby Smith

Tommy Forbes

Tommy Forbes

 Daydream', Madagascar by Matthew Schoenfelder

Daydream’, Madagascar by Matthew Schoenfelder

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When you come right down to it all you have is yourself.
The sun is a thousand rays in your belly.
All the rest is nothing.
~Pablo Picasso

the color of forgotten love

November 1, 2013

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Poetry is what happens when nothing else can.

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If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that.
You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire.
You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.

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What matters most is how well you walk through the fire.

Photographs by Dave Schubert
Quotes by Charles Bukwoski

~*~

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Peter Beste: Houston Rap

November 1, 2013

Peter Beste

Peter Beste. Klondike Kat
South Park, 2004

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Peter Beste. Resident of Villa America
South Park, 2005

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Peter Beste. “Tiger Wood of the Hood” passerby
Fourth Ward, 2005

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Peter Beste. OG Wickett Crickett
Club Konnections, 2005

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Peter Beste. K-Rino at MacGregor Park, 2006

I been fanning Peter Beste since when ? I can’t even remember how we met, but I remember the day we sat at a cafe on Prince Street, me paging through his luscious prints. Page after page after page of madness. I was home as my fingers swept across the protective plastic and my eyes bulged out my head and my heart did a little dance, as each turn of the page took me somewhere else.

And so it has come, as the inevitable does, Houston Rap is now a book from Sinecure and an exhibition at Boo Hooray Gallery, New York, opening November 7. I like it like this. Peter graciously agreed to an interview, and to let me share of his work. These are a few of my favorite things. Enjoy ~

From Norwegian Black Metal to Houston Rap, you are bringing North & South together again. I am struck by your taste in scenes. Tell me about what brought you down to Texas, to document the Hip Hop community ? When did you begin ? How did you get down ? How did the project develop into a book over the years you worked on it ?

Peter Beste: Since I was a young kid in the early 90s, I have been strongly intrigued by Houston’s rap underworld. My interest began in 1991 with the vivid and visceral rhymes of the Geto Boys and Gangsta N-I-P. Many years later while studying photography in college, I realized that documenting both the history of Houston rap and the neighborhoods that spawned these characters would make a perfect documentary photography project.

A few years later in 2004, I reached out to K-Rino, Street Military and others, and told them about my idea. Some of these guys were a bit hesitant a first. Obviously a white guy in the hood with a camera raises many eyebrows. It took a little time to get past their skepticism and for me to gain their trust. I did this by publishing some photos here and there in international magazines and by getting to know many of these guys on a personal level over time, which eventually convinced most of them that my motives were pure. In 2005 I brought writer Lance Scott Walker into the project to conduct interviews so the book would have more information and context.

The Willie D quote is killing me: “People ain’t been educated on fightin’ back unless it’s some street shit, like fighting your neighbors or beating up… fighting your family members, killing your best friend. And nobody like… fightin’ the government, the city. “What you mean, fight the city? You mean like… Houston against me?” What was it like meeting Bun B, Lil’ Troy, K-Rino, Paul Wall, (he died before I started this), Pimp C, Street Military, and Big Hawk ? What kind of perspective do they bring to the rap game ?

What differentiates these guys from the average American rapper, and what makes me respect them is their underdog status and drive to succeed on their own terms. For decades, it was extremely hard to make it in the rap game if you weren’t from New York or LA. Because of this lack of support from the mainstream, Houston rappers developed their own sound, became their own CEOs, and in the process they cut out the major label middlemen, built their own business model, and made a lot of money.

You got some ill shots, everything from the New Black Panther Party, the strip clubs, the cats hanging on the street, the dudes in the car sippinn syrup, all the grimy glamour captured on film in luscious color… What did you find most exciting about Houston as a photographer ? What qualities of the people you met were you most attracted to ?

One thing that really drew me to this project that went beyond the rappers themselves was the opportunity to document many of the changing neighborhoods. Houston has very few zoning laws, so huge portions of the city are torn down and rebuilt on a regular basis, especially the “economically challenged” areas. As a photographer and someone who is extremely skeptical about the motivations behind gentrification, I was drawn into the unique personality of the neighborhoods of South Park, Third, Fourth and Fifth Wards, their colorful hand painted store signs, their lack of chain corporate stores and general independence from the “white man’s world.”

One example of this is Fourth Ward, which was a beautiful historic neighborhood in the shadow of downtown that was filled with pre-WWII row houses, mom & pop shops, and BBQ joints where families had lived for generations. In the years since we started this project, it has been renamed “Midtown” and is now filled with high-rise condos, trendy restaurants, and a whole new set of residents. One of our goals with this book was to document these historical sites, many of which have since been demolished with few objections and little fanfare by the city at large.

I love that this is a photo book. It’s got so much energy. What’s been the best part of this project ? What has surprised you the most ? What would you like to see this book do ? Where can people pick it up ?

One of the most rewarding parts of this project for me was to gain access to this talented and dynamic group of self-made individuals that I otherwise would never have connected with. This experience has given me some dear friends who I wouldn’t have met otherwise, and has made me grow as an individual in the process.

As you can see from the book, we didn’t dwell too much on the typical topics that the mainstream press endlessly promotes, like over-the-top materialism, the glorification of drug dealing and prison life, and the objectification of women. While these elements are part of the music and the book to a degree, we wanted to present a bigger picture to try to empower people and educate them through the words of people like K-Rino, Willie D, Brother Robert Muhammad, Justice Allah, Wickett Crickett, and others.

One of the most important topics covered by these community leaders was how “the powers that be” have deliberately targeted and taken advantage of most of these communities by creating an unfair playing field by filling their neighborhoods with with unhealthy food, liquor stores on every other corner, poor education, government drug dealing, dirty vaccines, and overall lousy city services. These controversial topics are discussed directly by those interviewed rather than the authors in an effort to enlighten folks and hopefully keep them out of the vicious cycles of addiction, poverty and the prison-industrial complex. That is my number one goal with this book.

Houston Rap will be available in quality books stores on November 25, and a pre-order is now available at sincecurebooks.com for the special edition which comes with a Fat Pat/DJ Screw 7″ record, a double DJ Screw 12″ (first time on vinyl) and several other goodies. This version will not be available in stores.

Peter Beste

Peter Beste

Peter Beste

Peter Beste

Peter Beste

Peter Beste

~ Miss Rosen Editions ~

October 29, 2013

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~ Welcome to Instagram ~

Narco Estado: Drug Violence in Mexico by Teun Voeten

Narco Estado: Drug Violence in Mexico by Teun Voeten

Narco Estado: Drug Violence in Mexico by Teun Voeten

Narco Estado: Drug Violence in Mexico by Teun Voeten

War is organized brutality; the politicization of violence to achieve power, to dominate by any means. To kill, main, destroy, rape, pillage, conquer—to fully inhabit the beast, the monster that lives deep below the surface of things. The creature that can be called to action to serve a power structure that few know, for the soldiers on the ground are not the generals calling the moves. Those who die are sacrificed, and sacrifice of themselves to become pawns in a power play, the truth behind which is often too dark and disturbing to truly say. So we say, “War is hell,” and we try to give way, to allow those four little letters to explain the unexplainable.

This is where the photograph speaks in ways that words cannot; it provides the visceral, the viscera, blood, and guts that lives deep inside, that which is spilled by countless men who have come before, men whose names we may never know, as we gaze upon their decaying flesh.

War, as we have been taught, proceeds for the greater good, to right a wrong, to defy those who have corrupted the populace. But when it reaches the level where it becomes a conflict that seems without beginning and most certainly without end, then what is war but a profitable industry. This is the Drug War, as it is played today, a way that takes place across the globe, with the United States leading the way. As the primary consumer of narcotics in the Western hemisphere, the United States leans on countries like Colombia and Mexico to fight those who lead the organized criminal underworld.

But that underworld is not so nearly underground, not in these countries where who is on what side is more often than not obscured. Not in these countries, which celebrate the outlaw, which honor the legacy of the revolutionary, after they were colonized by European imperialists. For it is here, in these countries, that a war continues, just as it has never ended. And as crime pays, the political, the economic, and the criminal mix and mingle at every level, despite the propaganda that would have us believe otherwise.

Narco Estado: Drug Violence in Mexico by Teun Voeten (Lannoo) takes us inside a war that has claimed 55,000 lives in just seven years. Since 2006, when President Calderon declared war on the cartels running the drug trade, blood has been spilled, graves have been filled, and for what? The criminals continue to ply their trade. It is not possible to know the truth. Too much is being obscured, but with books like there we get a glimpse into a horrific level of violence that few have endured.

As Voeten writes in the book’s introduction, “The violence in Mexico has passed a threshold and has become a war. A new kind of war. Traditionally, wars were waged between states with organized professional armies. The outcome was decided during confrontations on well-circumscribed battlefields. To quote Von Clausewitz, ‘War was a continuation of diplomacy by other means.’ In the early nineties, a new form of warfare emerged: prolonged, low intensity conflicts, where ideology seemed lost…. War was no longer a means to an end. Rather the state of lawlessness, chaos and anarchy had become a goal in itself, a necessary precondition for warlords to exploit local resources—drugs, minerals—and exchange in black marketeering. Political scientists like Kaldor and Münkler call these conflicts ‘New Wars.’ Typically, they are not financed through taxation by a central government, but by shady deals that the warring factions make with criminal elements. In Mexico, the concept of this New War has gone far beyond that point. No need for warring factions to develop liaisons with international crime, simply because they are the criminals themselves.”

In Narco Estado: Drug Violence in Mexico, Voeten brings us along the edge of the abyss, providing a wide array of images, still moments, taken in what is a war zone unlike any you have ever seen. It looks more like life, as we know it, life as it is lived. Yet it is a testament to the level of terror that war brings that the very battlefield is one and the same as the place in which we live. Tens of thousands slaughtered, and no one is brought to justice. Most of the murders will never be solved, simply classified as “Drug Related” and left uninvestigated. There’s really nowhere to go with this when the military and city police are hitmen for hire, working with the cartels. If journalists investigate these relationships, they are treated like enemy combatants, and murdered just the same.

The Drug War in Mexico isn’t like anything we have ever known, and as so much of the story will never be told, it is a tribute to artists like Voeten who take to the streets in order to acquire bits and pieces of the puzzle. For all we see in his pictures is the very tip of a deadly iceberg.

Narco Estado: Drug Violence in Mexico by Teun Voeten

Narco Estado: Drug Violence in Mexico by Teun Voeten

Narco Estado: Drug Violence in Mexico by Teun Voeten

Narco Estado: Drug Violence in Mexico by Teun Voeten

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