Learning never exhausts the mind.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

Time stays long enough for anyone who will use it.

Artwork of & by Pablo Picasso.
Quotes by Leonardo da Vinci

I know who I am and who I may be, if I choose.

One man scorned and covered with scars still strove
with his last ounce of courage to reach the unreachable stars;
and the world will be better for this.

In order to attain the impossible, one must attempt the absurd.

One man is no more than another if he does no more than another.

Thou has seen nothing yet.

Artwork by Rene Magritte
Quotes by Miguel de Cervantes

A person starts to live when he can live outside himself.

Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities.
The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit
to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence.

Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.

I never think of the future. It comes soon enough.

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.
It is the source of all true art and all science.
He to whom this emotion is a stranger,
who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe,
is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.

Quotes by Albert Einstein
Art by Edward Hopper

I love you
and because I love you
I would sooner have you hate me
for telling the truth
than adore me
for telling you lies.
—Pietro Aretino

11th Law of Ma’at

April 13, 2012

I offer words of good intent.

it was written ..

April 1, 2012

How manifold it is, what thou hast made!
They are hidden from the face (of man).
O sole god, like whom there is no other!
Thou didst create the world according to thy desire,
Whilst thou wert alone: All men, cattle, and wild beasts,
Whatever is on earth, going upon (its) feet,
And what is on high, flying with its wings.

The countries of Syria and Nubia, the land of Egypt,
Thou settest every man in his place,
Thou suppliest their necessities:
Everyone has his food, and his time of life is reckoned.
Their tongues are separate in speech,
And their natures as well;
Their skins are distinguished,
As thou distinguishest the foreign peoples.

Thou makest a Nile in the underworld,
Thou bringest forth as thou desirest
To maintain the people (of Egypt)
According as thou madest them for thyself,
The lord of all of them, wearying (himself) with them,
The lord of every land, rising for them,
The Aton of the day, great of majesty.

you are here and so am i
and maybe millions of people go by

doug aitken: song 1

All Power to the People

March 20, 2012

The Art of Revolution: Emory Douglas

Huey P Newton holds a Bob Dylan album at home after he was released from jail. Photograph © Stephen Shames

Photographer Stephen Shames on The Black Panthers

Seize the Time: My Interview with Bobby Seale

the cave

March 17, 2012

Revelations fall from the sky and open my mind and the key to it all is love. Love in its most absolute sense, of the peace that comes from unconditional acceptance. And that, that has been the hardest thing because I have found myself falling for the okie doke time and again.

The other evening Dale said to me, Words affect our brain like computer commands. And I could see it. It looked like an old TRS 80 or a Commodore 64, or maybe I’ve just been watching too much Lost. But I could see the cursor in green, flashing against the black screen. And I could see word typed in, and when you press ENTER, it is done.

Does the computer disobey commands? Nahh. We didn’t program it to think. We programmed it to follow. And that reflects our own… inadequacies. Me, I have heard words, and I accepted them as truth. Whether it is because I have a genuine need to believe in other people, or because I was trained to do so, all I know if that I find myself trying to make words true.

Only now, something has changed. Words do not appear as truth, but as blessings and curses. That is to say, they are aspirational. They want to be absolute, but in reality, they are always one step removed. Because they are symbols, and not the thing themselves. And once I can see their distance from Truth, I can evaluate them as representations rather than facts.

For example, C told me “he was made to feel” but no one but C has control over his mind. But the finger was pointed at me, as though he chose to give his power away, and in doing so he was absolved from being responsible why he felt as he did. And in pointing the finger at me, I was triggered, because I never meant to make him feel anything that he put upon himself and laid at my feet. All I wanted was to express my truth, as he is the one who gave me the courage to speak. Yet by allowing him to burden me with the responsibility for his mind, I felt horrible, because once again, I swallowed the lie.

I cannot do anything to anyone else. And no one can do anything to me. But in order to reach the place where there is no fault or blame, there is only personal responsibility for what I believe, I have to let go of everything—including the belief that my life has meaning.

Because meaning is a product of words. Meaning is an illusion. It does not actually exist. It is plastic, as in a chemical construction. It is made up in the brain because that is part of the brain’s programming. But just because the brain wants to believe does not mean that belief, in and of itself, is real. Or valuable. Unless we want it to be.

But it is as Mr. Brown said: Want not, hurt not. That is all. So long as I desire meaning I will hurt. Because I will always go against truth. Truth is a paradox. And paradox shows that words and ideas are only one half the whole. The resolution of duality lies in the infinite wisdom of the universe to acknowledge that meaning is a mind game and words are its minions and that while we desire these things, they are simply… time killers.

Because, what is our purpose? Well, I cannot speak for anyone else. But I have only one purpose right now, and that is to heal. And in order to heal I must strip everything away, not just the lies but the illusions, and the grasping need. The need to believe that my brain holds truth. Because it doesn’t hold anything except shadows and illusions.

Mr. Brown likes to speak of Plato’s Cave, and it just occurred to me that the cave is the brain. And we will remain in the cave as long as we believe that the brain is where Truth can be found. But this week I walked outside the cave and saw the sun for the first time in my life. And it is as the beautiful sunlight falls upon my face that I begin to let go, I begin to submit…

Andrea Photogram by Anton Perich

Watch, watch your body walking, sitting, lying down,
and you will be able to see that you are the watcher, not the body.
Watch your mind in anger, in hatred, in love, in greed, in misery, in joy,
and you will become aware one day that you are not these things that happen in the mind;
you are the watcher. Slowly slowly the watcher becomes crystallized.
That is the birth of the soul. That day you are really born, that day your real life begins.
From that moment God is a reality for you, and the only reality.
—Osho

God Bless Stella Marr

March 13, 2012

Stella Marr: My Body the City: The Secret Life of a Callgirl

I started this blog two and a half years ago, when I started my own company and needed to build my brand. During the first year, I dedicated it to my clients and made it a repository of my career achievements.

But this got boring, so I switched it up and began interviewing friends and colleagues about their work. These are artists and writers I had known over the course of my ten years as a publicist, and it was with great joy that I could speak with them about things that I had always wanted to ask. “You’re a great interviewer,” they said and perhaps that is because it is not often enough that we engage about art on the level of discourse that feeds my soul. More often than not, we are working or socializing, and neither of those is the space for deeper discovery.

But then, something happened. I quit everything to do my own work. And before I could begin, I pretty much stopped blogging at all. But when I returned to it, things began to change. I wanted to write about things that were on my mind. I wanted to find images that inspired me. I wanted to find quotes from the greatest minds that had ever been recorded.

But somewhere in this process, something deeper occurred. I fell in love, and that rocked my world. I saw everything differently. And my blog became something new: it became my diary.  Falling in love, it began with him. But he lead me to something deeper still. He lead me to my truest self. And that person, I am just beginning to discover, because even though we broke up, still, still, still he transforms my life.

He has done so much for me, he doesn’t even know. And one of the ten million things he did was give me the courage to bare my soul. To myself. To him. To the public. As completely as possible. And so, somehow he is the reason this blog has become a space where I could come out, such as it were. I am not Miss Rosen. I am not even Sara. I am without a name. I am simply a creature of the ether.

Now here is what amazes me. Ever since I transformed my blog in October, my hits have gone through the roof. My followers have increased exponentially, to the point where I feel like, I have a connection to people with whom I have never spoken. My friends, a very select group, they follow me. But most people are New Yorkers, too busy with their own lives. And that’s okay. I don’t do this for them. I do this for me. Because this blog is me. What a strange, strange thing to realize.

And as this blog has brought people to me, so has it brought me to people I would not otherwise meet. Moments ago a woman named Stella Marr signed up to follow my blog, so I did what I always do, I checked out her site. And I began to cry.

She has written a piece that has absolutely floored me. I am without words. That is how I know I am in the presence of greatness. Every nerve is standing on end. It is electric. It is pure energy. It is what I wish to do, in my own humble way. To be naked. Proud and unashamed. To be so completely honest with my word that once I have spoken my piece, there is nothing more to be said. There are only tears to be dried, and hugs to be given. Cheers to you, Stella Marr, with gratitude and admiration.

“Liberty is more valuable than life.” —Harriet Jacobs

Don’t Stop, Get It, Get It

Photograph © Nat Finkelstein

Nat Finkelstein was a photographer with the photo agencies PIX and Black Star during the 1960s. He was a successful mainstream photojournalist, published in major media outlets. In August 1965, Nat was assigned by Life Magazine to photograph protesters in Washington DC. The protest – known as the Assembly of Unrepresented Persons—was designed to link opposition to the Vietnam War with support for voting rights to create a broader peace and freedom movement. Urged on by a young woman holding a “DEFEND FREEDOM” sign, the protesters tried nonviolently to enter the Capitol to present a “Declaration of Peace.” But police intervened and a melée ensued—with Nat Finkelstein there to capture every frame of it.

After the protest, Nat gave his negatives to a messenger from Life’s Washington office. Those negatives promptly disappeared. For almost 30 years they remained missing and this hole in the historical record persisted. But fortunately, the contact sheets of the images Nat captured that day were recently re-discovered. Below is Nat’s story, as he lived it.

Photograph © Nat Finkelstein

Defend Freedom
Photographs and Story by Nat Finkelstein
First published by The Blacklisted Journalist, 2004

The Free Press is free only to the man who owns the presses. —A.J. Leibling, The Press

Liberty is murdered when the Free Press is Murdoched

It was the eighth of August ’65.

There’s hardly a person still alive Who remembers that date and time and year when insurrections were here and the protest was clear: all comparisons stop there.

I was a stringer with two major photographic agencies, Black Star and Pix. I specialized in civil rights, politics, and the counterculture.    I was younger then and still believed that it was possible to change the world 35 millimeters at a time.   That as a photojournalist working for nationally distributed magazines, I could contribute to change and betterment:

”Show them the light and they will follow” sort of elitism. The Liberal trap: a fallacy.

BULLET: True that Playboy helped bring about certain temporary changes in societal attitudes towards sexuality.   But Hugh Hefner never was and never would be a politically progressive publisher.   He was never much more than a brilliant huckster of titillations, sex, and lightweight literature: An apostle of materialism and masturbation, the perfect exemplar of capitalism…

LOOK MA! ANYONE CAN DO IT. GET ON THAT RAFT AND COME TO AMERIKA CARLOS AND ROSITA, LOOK WHAT WE GOT AND YOU CAN HAVE IT TOO.

Photograph © Nat Finkelstein

I had a good reputation for handling myself in competitive situations.   I had acquitted myself well during Pope John’s visit, Marilyn Monroe’s circus performance, Castro’s visit to the U.N., and the previous Civil Rights demonstrations (as well as fending off sneak attacks of Warhol’s pack of grave-robbers, whiners and sycophants).

Furthermore, I was deeply involved in what was then called “The New Left”—both as a journalist and participant.   Long before the onset of “The Struggle,” I had joined the Y.P.A. in the Fifties and had friends and contacts in the movement.   I was trusted.   So, when Howard Chapnick, the president of Black Star, was asked by Life Magazine to cover an upcoming anti-war demonstration in Washington, he gave the assignment to me.  Before I left, Howard warned me of a feud between New York and the DC office.  New York, being slightly more liberal of the the two, was less prone to sucking the Luce/Chenault ass.   Sabotage was not unheard of—the rivalry was intense.

Photograph © Nat Finkelstein

I arrived at Union Station in Washington the day before the march was scheduled and met up with a group of kids from Columbia University.  They were students of Professor Paul Goodman, a well respected, left-leaning political philosopher, and I spent the day with them.  I was surprised that they knew who I was and some of the previous articles that I had published.  (This was to rebound on me later.)

As the evening progressed, the group became more diverse, as veterans of the civil rights struggle came in: The DuBois Society, CORE (Congress Of Racial Equality), SNCC (Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee).   Fresh from voter registration drives in Mississippi, militants from Newark and Harlem were joining up with kids from Y.A.W.F. (Youth Against War and Fascism).   White middle class kids and black militants coming together in an uneasy alliance.   Together with the various Pacifist societies, as well as the followers of Martin Luther King, who previously had eschewed the anti war movement, they joined to form an Assembly of Unrepresented People, determined to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right of free assembly in order to petition their government and declare the war in Vietnam to be a racist war.

Photograph © Nat Finkelstein

Neither Martin Luther King nor any of his Southern Christian Leadership Conference were present, here preferring to lend their support from a safe distance.  They later lent their full support, but at this point in the struggle, the Afro-American section of ‘The Movement’ was represented by SNCC and CORE.

At this point I was encountered by a photographer assigned by Life’s Washington office (I believe Dennis Brock), who informed me that he was there to assist me and that I would get the best shots by climbing to the roof of the Smithsonian Institute, overlooking the parade route and getting an overhead view.  This, of course, would take me away from the action and put me on the sidelines.  I refused the advice.

Upon leaving the Mall, the march, led by David Dellinger, Stuart Lynde and Robert Moses was attacked by uniformed members of the American Nazi Party.  They threw pails of red paint on the leading marchers, of which I was one.

The Nazis were gently led off by the Washington police.   I followed, photographing the entire incident.

The Life representative then asked me if I was shooting in color, & I told him that I was shooting in both color & B&W.   In that case, he said, you’ve got a cover.

Photograph © Nat Finkelstein

When we reached the House of Representatives, the group was divided by Dellinger and Lynde, the pacifist wing.  Those that wished to encounter the government’s forces should sit on the steps, while the pacifists would absent themselves from any physical action and stand on the side.

A short time after this was done, we were refused entry into the House of Representatives.   A young Black lady (wearing a “Defend Freedom” sign) with a young white lady stood up and exhorted the crowd to exercise their legal rights and cross the police lines.   At this point, I believe the photos speak for themselves.   I was busy doing my job.

But you can observe that the first people to be accosted and intimidated by the police were the Afro-Americans.    During the march, an apparently late Nazi threw some of his own paint, and was also roughed up by the police.   However, he was not arrested.

At this point, the police forces were led and instructed by a non-uniformed, unidentified man, who apparently commanded the police to be rough.   In fact, you can see this man in the pictures.   Who he was, no one may ever know.

As you can see from the photographs, the other photographers stayed at a short distance from this action, whereas I was fully involved, as you can see one picture, to the point of being punched in the stomach by a policeman during the melee, even though I was wearing official press credentials identifying me as a photographer from Life magazine. I did my job recording the information before me; the brutality, the obvious concentration on people of color, the fingernails crunching nerve endings, the faces squeezed, the glee of the oppressors, the courage of the kids.

Photograph © Nat Finkelstein

At the conclusion, I immediately headed to Union Station to return to New York.   While at Union Station, a messenger from Life magazine sought me out, telling me they needed my color shots immediately as they were preparing for a cover.   My ego, at that point bigger than my brains—I was thinking about my picture getting on the cover of Life magazine—handed the film to the messenger and returned to New York.   Where I received a chewing out from Howard Chapnick, who told me these pictures would be lost forever, which they were.   The black and whites—buried—were not retrieved until recently.   Time-Life tells me they no longer have the negatives.

(Until recently I fully believed that there was a bureaucratic or interoffice rivalry that resulted in the lose of the story but in July the New York Times frontpaged a similar instance where an early civil rights [1964] story was similarly “lost”: More will appear.)

At that point, I decided to put down my cameras & pick up my militancy.  The time for poetry ended, the time for political action began for me.    I left for San Francisco soon after, and joined with people such as the Diggers (Emmett Grogan and Peter Cohen (aka Coyote).

As you’ll notice from these photographs, there were no “long-haired freaks”: no Abbie Hoffman, no Jerry Rubin, no Allen Ginsberg.   No pot, no gratuitous violence on the part of the protestors.   This came later.   It is my firm belief this was done by the so-called capitalist “Free Press.” The mainstream media that appointed theatrical clowns such as Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Allen Ginsberg, and Timothy Leary, as representative of the antiwar movement. When actually, the antiwar movement consisted of the students and the ordinary American working class. The mainstream press persuaded middle America that William Burroughs was making opiates the religion of their children while their daughters were getting knocked up by commies and Blacks.

Photograph © Nat Finkelstein

The culture war had begun.

www.natfinkelstein.com

The Art of War, 1980, Photograph © Jamel Shabazz

On a slow, sunny summer day during 2000, while working at powerHouse Books, there was a knock on the door. I jumped up to open it. A tall and stylish man stood before me, graciously introducing himself as Jamel Shabazz.

As Jamel recalled for this interview, “I decided that it was time to move forward and produce my first monograph, so I found the address to powerHouse Books and took a chance. Once I arrived, I remember standing outside the hallway to the office for a few minutes, going over my strategy, one final time. I then took a deep breath and knocked on the door. My world would never be the same. Once in, I introduced myself to the vibrant, Miss Sara Rosen, who greeted me with a million dollar smile, she then referred to Craig Cohen, Associate Publisher, whose disposition was warm and genuine.”

Although Jamel did not have an appointment to meet with us, when he showed us a catalogue from an exhibition of his work in Paris, Craig and I nearly fell over from excitement. We had never seen anything like his work before—bold portraits of people on the streets of New York City during the 1980s revealing the original style and fierce pride as hip hop first made its way into the culture. I remembered my childhood in the Bronx; Craig recalled that of his in Brooklyn; and we both decided to publish Jamel Shabazz’s first book, Back in the Days, the following year.

Nearly ten years have passed since that fateful day, and powerHouse published additional books by Jamel Shabazz including The Last Sunday in June, a ten-year retrospective of New York’s Gay Pride Parade, Seconds of My Life, a thirty-year career retrospective, and my personal favorite: A Time Before Crack, which revisits Jamel’s archive and reaches new depth and understanding of street culture with a collection of images which span 1975–1985. I am honored to have helped introduce Jamel and his work to the world, and humbled by the outpouring of love and admiration his photographs have inspired. I thank him for giving me the opportunity to speak with him about his work. Enjoy the interview!

Best Friends, Photograph © Jamel Shabazz


I developed a theory a long time ago about why your work inspires so much love among people who see it. I believe every photographer is “in” their photographs just as much as their subject is. For example, when you see a cold photograph, you also see a cold photographer. I always thought what was amazing about your photographs was that you had first spoken and connected with the people in the photos by engaging them in conversations about pride, self-love, respect, and self-empowerment. And after your conversations, you had taken their photos. So when they looked into your camera, they radiated back to you the positive energy with which you imbued them. And that we, as viewers, look at these people looking at us with so much love, pride, respect—power—that we get a jolt. It is as if what you said to the people in these photographs is now being then transferred to us, the viewers.

So that’s a long theory yes, but it is the only way I can understand how people react so strongly to these photographs. Believe you me, I have seen a lot of people look at a lot of photos but never have I seen the reaction your photos get. And I don’t think it’s because of the shoes, or the glasses, or the coats. I think it is because there is something about Jamel that is coming back through these photographs, and we feel it when we look at it. But I wanted to ask you: why do you think people have had the reaction to the work?

Jamel Shabazz: Your observation is 100% right on. Before each photograph, I took the time to engage most of my subjects about life and making the right choices, in order to survive. I did this because when I was younger, the older guys, in my community did it to me, so it was ingrained in me as a young child to give back, and I vowed that I would reach out to the youth in my community at all cost. They respected me because I wasn’t afraid of them, and I took an interest in their lives. It was beyond the photograph—I help many make career choices; I spoke to them about diet, education, and  how  to select the right mate.

Each image that you see in my book is a visual record, of the countless encounters that I had with young people. I did it out of love and concern. I saw  the crack epidemic making it’s way to my community and I wanted to avert as many as I could away from its destruction. So when you study the faces of those in my book, you are seeing faces of young men, women and children, who I just finished bonding with, young people who I told were special and were our future.

Often times I would departed them with the words, “Everything you do today will reflect on your future.”

Fly Guy, Photograph © Jamel Shabazz


When you began work on A Time Before Crack, you were adamant that this book not through of as Back in the Days Part II. Please elaborate.

Jamel Shabazz: The book was originally called Strictly Old School and I decided to change not only the name, but the images. With the success of Back in the Days, I felt at first that a continuation would be a good ideal, however I didn’t want to be pigeon-holed as a fashion photographer, so I came up with a title that reflected a social condition rather than trying to make a fashion statement.

To make the book different from my first, I used photographs that I took in the mid-70′s and that alone separated it from Back in the Days. In addition I included more group shots, women, children, and families. Using the collage in the front and back gave it a little more edge and allowed me to have over a thousand faces in this work.

I enlisted four writers (Claude Gruntizky, Charlie Ahearn, James “Koe” Rodriguez, and Terrence Jennings) to give commentary of their choice, each one from a different racial back ground, African, White, Latin, and African American.

A Time Before Crack is about a people who lived in a time before crack cocaine destroyed communities, and ruined lives. This book books serves as visual medicine for those that were affected by the epidemic.

Homeboys, 1980, Photograph © Jamel Shabazz

You have been labeled a “Hip-Hop fashion photographer,” but you would prefer to be recognized as a street and documentary photographer. Please explain why.

Jamel Shabazz: I have been called a Hip-Hop photographer on countless occasions and those that see me that way really don’t understand my history or work. Yes, I have shot Hip-Hop fashion for magazines but that only represents such a small body of my work. I started taking photographs, when the term “Hip Hop” wasn’t even in the dictionary. To accept this label would limit my creativity.

Photo documentarian is the proper term for my work. It’s broader and has greater leverage. For thirty years have traveled travel both far and near and document varies people and cultures. I have shot homelessness, prostitution, military culture, the law enforcement community ,the horror of 911, and so much more. I look forward to the day, when I can share that part of my work. Every chance I get, I make it a point to display images that reflect that side of my craft.

The international success of hip hop has allowed me to share it’s platform. I am very grateful for that and I will continue to incorporate it in all I do—but there is so many other things that needs to be recorded as well. For example, I have a desire to go to Vietnam and document the children of American service men that were left behind over thirty years ago. No one really knows that side of me.

East Flatbush, Brooklyn, 1980, Photograph © Jamel Shabazz

What do you hope the publication of these photographs, taken over 20 years ago, will do for the people and the culture today?

Jamel Shabazz: My objective with A Time Before Crack is to create conversation about how  life was before the great crack and AIDS plagues of the 1980s—when women were treated with respect,  when the majority of us had two-parent house holds.

Crack cocaine snatched the lives of so many innocent souls. Thousands of young men and women have had their lives ruined by drugs, and many linger in prisons through out America today due to them.

I have heard on numerous occasions how people broke down and cried while looking at my photographs, remembering a better time.

My goal is to make being positive and caring popular again.

Tupac, 1998, Photograph © Jamel Shabazz

www.jamelshabazz.com

The Thirteenth Moon of 2009

December 31, 2009

New Years Eve, 2009, is a Blue Moon.

A blue moon is a full moon that is not timed to the regular monthly pattern. Most years have twelve full moons, which occur each month. In addition to each lunar cycle, every calendar year contains an excess of eleven and 1/4 calendar days. The extra days accumulate so that every two and a half years, there is an extra full moon. The extra moon is called a “blue moon.”

Another way to look at it would be the Thirteenth Moon. Less marketable, but much more accurate since there’s nothing azure about the evening sky. I can’t wait to see the Thirteenth Moon blaze through the night.

2009
(R.I.P.)

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