Elegy for the Conner Family: Why I’m Going to Miss Them and Why the Cancellation Might Not Have Been the Right Response

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania Roseanne revival pictureWhen it became apparent that Roseanne Conner, sitcom’s blue collar heroine, would return after twenty-years as a Trump supporter, the revival show was already on the hit-list of media liberals. To have a respectable ABC show humanize a Trump supporter was apparently too controversial and when it was released, numerous clickbait articles demonized the show to no end. You’d be excused in thinking that Roseanne became a propaganda vessel of Roseanne Barr’s own vigilant support for Trump. If you’d actually watch it, you’d see that the show was fairly innocuous: it poked light fun at the current political division of America. At no point did we get a swaying speech from Roseanne about why Trump was the only reasonable choice in the maddening 2016 election. At the same time, the show called for tolerance and understanding against Muslims and people who have a different gender than the one they are assigned to.

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Dan holding the manuscript that was the basis of Roseanne’s ninth lackluster season.  

What we did get was a faithful return of the Conner family, whose final season appearance 1997 was embarrassing to say the least.  Much of the failure of season 9 of Roseanne was due to Roseanne Barr’s own troublesome character, something that ironically also destroyed the show from receiving an eleventh season. Season 9 was hampered down by Roseanne’s continuous bloating ego and her demand for rewrites- like many celebrities, fame was something the talented comedian and actress simply couldn’t handle.
The chance to see the Conner family again next year, was destroyed by Roseanne’s grotesque tweet about Valerie Jarrett about her being black and born in Iran which went: ‘’Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby’’ yeah, hilarious Roseanne. Naturally in this current political climate, this supposed joke didn’t fly and it quickly caused division among its own producers with Wanda Sykes, long-time friend of Roseanne, leaving the show. Co-star Sarah Gilbert tweeted her disappointment with Roseanne’s comments. The tweet caused countless condemnation of celebrities and media figures, some of them jumping on the opportunity to bash Roseanne, deploring the revival show’s mere existence. Re-run episodes were quickly pulled from the air and add revenue went down in oblivion. Disney CEO Bob Iger even called Valerie to apologize for Roseanne’s abhorrent tweet and announced that the show would be cancelled. All of this despite the incredible high ratings of the show and sufficed to say, Roseanne’s tweet caused ABC a lot of money.
Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania Roseanne tweet valerie
Roseanne’s fatal tweet. 

Roseanne apologized profusely and stated that she wrote the tweet on Ambien. It was my suspicion that some chemical imbalance causes her weird twitter outburst- some profusely filled with demented conspiracy theory. Even so, it wasn’t enough to safe the show.
As a fan of the show it caused me great annoyance for the show to become so annoying politicized. People condemned the show before it even came out, citing Roseanne’s moronic political beliefs. As a liberal who absolutely loathes Trump, I couldn’t care less about Roseanne’s personal political beliefs and it’s hypocritical for others to do so. It would be easy to name numerous performers from Cinema and TV we give a pass too, but apparently being a Trump supporter is going too far. As usual, someone was outraged so cue: the attention seeking tweets and clickbait articles. Soon enough you will have tribalism with with Trump supporters all standing by Roseanne- all of this despite the fact that the show is not political propaganda but a touching and humorous look at blue-collar Americana.

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania anti roseanne
Sarah Gilbert, Roseanne Barr and John Goodman reading the countless clickbait articles about why nobody should watch Roseanne. 

It didn’t help that Trump apparantly called Roseanne to congratulate her on the show’s huge premiere ratings. Numerous pundits and writers would condemn the show for its (imagined) racism. If Barr herself wasn’t a Trump supporter, perhaps the show would have been left alone, but the show even called out for being slightly dangerous for normalizing Trump supporters. The show was simply on the hit-list by many liberals. It became an issue of partisan politics and wasn’t looked at objectively. With the show being cancelled, numerous pundits and celebrities are supporting this decision, some even revelling this as a great sign or progression.
Being a fan and a liberal myself, I understand the decision to cancel the show, even if I don’t wholly support it. A dumb and drug-induced comment by the main star should not immediately result in the cancellation of a huge show- and with it, the jobs of all those performers who worked on the show. As someone suffering from mental-illness, I also feel for Roseanne Barr who suffered from her own bouts of neurosis and perhaps we should be more sympathetic and forgiving for her stupid and cruel joke. If we really want to have diversity among the humanities, it shouldn’t be just about race or gender, it should also be about the state of our mental-health. But race is such a sensitive subject in America that a calm and measured response I simply not in the cards. I’m not defending Roseanne’s comments but I wonder whether this response was right. The self-righteousness of many liberals seems overblown. This piece of news was used to make a political statement and perhaps it should have been used to make a higher and more humanizing statement. What Roseanne said about Valerie Jarrett was cruel and inhumane and should be condemned. But at the same time, as many right-wing pundits point out, numerous insensitive comments are made about Trump supporters or white people and apparantly that’s accepted, even encouraged. White people are often the butt of many jokes in TV shows and comedians.  White people are lumped together in ways that would be offensive if it were to be done with black people. The common excuse being that white people have certain privileges that make it necessary for them to conform themselves to the sensitivities of minorities (or is more often the case) and sensitive liberals.

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Jackie as the raging Hilary supporter. 

But perhaps the right thing would be to really look at America’s political divisions, at the hatred the show received from its inception, at the imbalanced mental-state that becomes attracted to one side of this polemical debate. Roseanne Barr is a celebrity that’s enmeshed in fake news and partisan politics but she’s not the only one. The decision becomes another issue of partisan politics, of the power of the outrage culture which cannot accept any compromises. And yet, maybe there was a better way. Maybe there was a way to bring us all together. Maybe we should have looked more inwardly to ourselves and to the perpetrator instead of immediately shunning her out of the spotlight.

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The Conner family twenty years ago, in their younger and apparantly less vulnerable years. 

With that being said, I also humbly believe that Roseanne as a show has immense cultural importance. Jeffrey Tambor was quickly fired from the hit-show Transparent following sexual harassment allegations. Showrunner Jill Soloway stressed the importance of continuing the show because of its importance to the LBGT community. If that’s the case, a similar case could be made for Roseanne as there are not many sitcoms around that are as honest in its depiction of American life. It’s important because unlike shows like Modern Family or Big Bang Theory, this is closer to how real Americans live day by day. Rarely do we see Americans in sitcoms struggle like the Conners do. In Roseanne we see the painful compromises they have to make, in their personal dreams and ambitions. We see how tired they are, how much of a mess their house is, how tragically easy it is to lose the little comfort they have left. The sentiment that often transpires in the show is genuine too. People love each other but often can’t stand each other. People can hurt each other, people can be selfish. But in the end, as the Conner family shows us, we have to stick together. The only way to make it out of this troublesome country is that we stick together.
I watched this show at the same time as watching episodes from the first season. It’s fascinating to watch these two different time periods back to back. It’s like you’re watching real people from the past and in the future. Sometimes Darlene or Becky would mention their ambitions to the future or Jackie would mention having children in the future and I’d shake my head knowing that things will be very different for them. In America, dreams usually don’t come true.
The tenth season was not supposed to be the last but at least we got see all the usual faces again. True to its roots, none of is glamorous. DJ Conner became an ex-veteran that is sometimes haunted by the horrible things witnessed and participated in. The passionate and vitriolic love affair between Darlene and David ended as it probably would; with Darlene breaking it up indefinitely in order not to spoil any semblance of stability for their child, with David hopefully showing some paternal instinct in the future. Becky would not have the fashionable life she dreamed off but instead becomes a waitress with a history of bad men and a slight drinking problem. Jackie becomes an elderly and clueless Social-justice Warrior, a woman with all the right intentions but none of the proper tact. Grandmother Beverly (still played wonderfully by ninety year old Estelle Parsons) still interferes with her children lives but revels in her newfound sexual hedonism that can appear in old age with the continuing awareness of the finality of life- which includes banging senior Christopher Lloyd. And finally, there is Dan and Roseanne, who still have the same chemistry they had twenty years ago. Roseanne has a painful hip problem which she, as is sadly common in America, treats with her slight addiction for prescription medication. Dan is still a contractor but suffers under the weights of cheap American Labour. Both have an uncertain future, as do all of them.
But at least they have each other.
The show ends with the whole family enjoying a meal the day before Roseanne is undergoing hip surgery. She’s afraid that she won’t wake up and see Dan anymore. Complications can always arise with procedures like this. Life is filled with unwelcome surprises.
It’s more than likely, as was the plan, that Roseanne would be okay. It’s not the perfect ending to the Conner family saga but it’s more a dignified end than what fans originally got. Life will go on with the Conner’s. And life will go on with all who loved watching the trials and tribulations of the quintessential American family.
But I’m certainly going to miss them.
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The Conner family’s final meal. 

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Emotions Are All We Have: an Appreciation for Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania Paolo Sorrentino
Director Paolo Sorrentino enjoying a cigar. 

In one of the many beautiful scenes of Paolo Sorrentino’s masterful Youth, Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel) is instructing his minions of screenwriters on the different perception of youth and old age. Standing atop a balcony of a luscious hotel in the Swiss Alps, Mick asks one of the screenwriters to look through panoramic binoculars. The screenwriter sees a mountain and from the binoculars perspective, it seems to be nearby.
”This is what you see when you’re young,” Mick says, ”everything seems really close. That’s the future.”
He turns her binoculars around and now, from her perspective, everything seems far away. ”That’s what you see when you’re old,” Mick says, ”everything seems really far away. That’s the past.”

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Mick (Harvey Keitel) and his minions of screenwriters.

The central characters of Youth are both living in the past while confronting the darkness of the future. A renowned composer Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) is depressed because he lost his musical and romantic partner. Mick, a filmmaker is working on what he deems to be his testimonial film. The daughter and assistant of Fred, Lena (Rachel Weisz), is struggling with her divorce. A young actor Jimmy Tree (Paul Dano) fears that he will never be taken seriously as an actor and will always be remembered as the guy who once played a Robot.

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Jimmy (Paul Dano) observing the beautiful world around him. 

One might accuse this film as being slightly elitist since all of these characters struggle with these existential quarries in a five-star hotel in the Swiss alps. Through the beautiful cinematography by Luca Bigazzi we witness scene after scene of affluence: fancy dining, beautiful swimming pools, nightly entertainments. But director Sorrentino also satirizes excessive wealth and the emptiness that comes with it. Even by living in paradise, people don’t know what to do themselves and fail to appreciate each other. Lena’s estranged husband divorces her for some shallow pop-star- his stated reason is because she is apparently great in bed. Both Mick and Fred know that they haven’t always been kind and loyal to their loves ones. Even with all their wisdom and their place in high-society, they must deal with the most ordinary of regrets.

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Fred (Michael Caine) in arguably Youth’s saddest scene.

The film switches attention from the central characters to the minor characters; such as a levitating Buddhist-monk, an ex-overweight soccer player, a quiet couple, a masseuse or a despondent young escort. We’re thrust right in the middle or at the end of their story, during the moment of some great epiphany and emotional deliverance. There’s a universe of suffering and contemplation out there. Each individual life is a beautiful individual story but we can’t know them all. There’s just many stories out there and not enough writers.

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The insightful masseuse (Luna Zimic Mijovic) living in the moment. 

One moment characters may have deeply profound philosophical conversations while the next we are treated with something comically silly. Sometimes scenes flash by while other scenes take their beautiful sweet time. One scene might have beautiful orchestral music while the next may have some modern pop-song. Sorrentino, as the mark of a true artist, does what he wants and doesn’t heed any of the traditional narrative rules. He would do this again in HBOs episodic The Young Pope and in both cases, the result has been something truly special.

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Lena (Rachel Weisz) learning to move on after her painful divorce. 

The future seems to coming after us with rapid speed while the past seems to be running away from us, and we try to catch up with one and try to outrun the other, but it’s impossible. If we move in the wrong direction, The only escape is to live in the present.

"You say that emotions are overrated, but that's is bullshit. Emotions is all what we've got."
Fred seeing clearly, if only for a moment. 

***

What Matters Most

My tattoo is imperfect
just like this poem.

My Bukowski/Buddhist/sugar-skull tattoo is imperfect
just like my brain.
My brain is and has always been imperfect.
It was imperfect the second I was born.
It became increasingly imperfect the older I became.
Now I’m filled with irrational fears
and obsessive-thoughts.
The tiniest details can be terrifying.
A small innocuous act can be interpreted as subconsciously malicious.
A small meaningless imperfection can be the end of the world.
A tattoo, with an imperfection, can make me want to cry and hide away in shame.

But then it dawned on me about the message of the tattoo:

What Matters Most is
how well you
walk through the
fire.

Sometimes when I walk through the fire, I stumble.

I carry with me an imperfect brain as I try to cope with existence and make it something worthwhile and meaningful.
One of my greatest struggles is my obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The mind that fixates on my every little deeds
and scrutinizes my every thought.
The monster I always carry with me,
the monster that makes me doubt the most beautiful aspects of my life.
The monster that makes me want to hate myself.
He will always be there,
he will never go away.
Just like this tattoo.

But like my imperfect brain
and like my imperfect tattoo
there are beautiful things to it too
if I look at the bigger picture
if I notice the shadow
and detail
and if I see clearly enough,
I began to realize that this imperfection doesn’t really matter.
It’s part of me,
part of who I am.

I have to accept it
because
there is no other way.

There is no you without your imperfect mind.

There is no you without this imperfect tattoo.

There is no you without the fire.
And it burns,
it can burn for quite a while.

There are scars
and there are bad memories
and there are tattoos:
self-inflicted wounds and works of art.

They are there to remind us of something,
to bring us closer to ourselves.

And as I’m looking down at it now,
noticing the shadows
that make the lotus flower on its head stand out
think it looks beautiful.

Don’t you think so too?

Image may contain: one or more people
***

The Picture That Changes Everything: the Pleasant Madness of Street-Photography part 7 (final)

7: All These Moments

Street-photography is as much about the things we don’t see as it is about the things we do see. The glimpse tells us just a little bit and most of us are satisfied by this. We like the mystery, we don’t need everything revealed. Perhaps this is why I love black-white pictures so much, it strips away the colors that would distract us, it gives it that dated feel. It shows us a different world even though it’s still the same one. Black-white images tells us we are dealing with something of an older time, something seemingly far away from us even if the picture was made yesterday. Black-white pictures are so crisp now, they used to be full of grain. The graininess is now considered stylish but back then it was the only quality available.
Now we can see everything so clearly and many don’t want this. They choose to make photography with traditional film, a Polaroid camera or alter their digital camera to reveal a little less. Sometimes we slow-down the shutter speed, we see time trying to keep up with the flash. It almost feels like we are messing with the foundations of time. We can alter the settings to reveal something the camera couldn’t: slow-down the shutter speed in the midst of heavy traffic at night, see it become a beautiful blur; use macro-setting to enlarge a object, the rust of an ax in an abandoned house; focus on a singular subject, blur the world around him.
The angles can mean everything to. A crooked angle might be better suited than a straight angle. Crop the picture so the focus goes on what can make the picture great. Sometimes a shoddy picture can give it more meaning than if it was perfectly set up. How do you want the subject to represented? A low angle can make him seem like an impressive man, a high-angle might make him seem like a small man. There’s the treasure of the accidental picture- a secret most street-photographers won’t tell you is that you don’t need to wait for that perfect moment, the best tactic might be to just go ape-shit on that shutter button, have fun with it, see the beauty all around you, enjoy the process.
There’s this meditation I practice about distancing myself to my thoughts, this guided voice tells me to imagine a mirror and as I look at myself, I should realize that my thoughts, no matter how important they seem, won’t alter physical reality. It won’t change me. These thoughts are just traffic in the mind. But all of us can’t but be captured by the flow of thoughts; from nostalgic musings, sudden regrets or the inability to live up to our dreams. As I’ve stated before in the previous chapters, we want to see a glimpse of their world, we want to wonder about their inner world but we must retain the mystery. It’s part archaeological, a glimmer to a world long gone. Even if the picture was made recently, the world changes faster than we think. How the streets looks today will look different a decade from now. It all goes so fast and if you don’t have a photographic memory, you won’t be able to picture how it was. Perhaps this isn’t such a tragedy yet sometimes, in my lonely hours, I find myself suddenly back in streets that are now so different, in buildings that are demolished or abandoned. It all goes so fucking fast. It’s as the great expired Replicant used to say; all these moments will be lost, like tears in rain.
There is no formula to capture these moments, if somebody tells you there are rules, tell them that they have no idea what photography is- I’m purely talking about the aesthetic matter, not the technical side of photography. There’s a science to photography but when it comes to the artist, the aesthetics belongs to him and if you can break the rules in a beautiful way, you’ve succeeded were most fail. Surely I’m not even close to such a level, but I do think it’s important to be a rebel. I remember when I was a part of a theater group, we had to be fairy-tale characters guiding kids in this theater building. I was cast as The Big Bad Wolf. I played him like a creepy child-catcher, I want to scare the shit out of these kids. Most of my fellow actors had props but I didn’t. I didn’t think I needed it. Some suggested to have fake Wolf-ears but it seemed excessive. I merely had the tuxedo, the long hairs covering my ears. One of the actors critiqued me for this. But when my scene came up I knocked it out of the park. Little Red-Riding hood was in the bathroom hiding from the Big Bad Wolf, the kids were there with their teachers, she was crying for help. I burst into the scene, banging my hand against the door. Even one of the teaches shrieked ”Jesus!” A few girls hid behind their teachers, the boys thought I was fucking cool. Later on, when the kids passed our troupe, they all pointed at me and yelled ”look it’s the Big Bad Wolf!” It proved I made an impact, it was probably, besides another theater show with the same troupe, the highlight of my small theater career. Now I’m not being presumptuous here, I certainly wasn’t the best actor- probably one of the poorest- but I did break a conventional rule of my troupe. You need to think outside the box, you need to break some rules to develop yourself as an artist. If you think you have to do it like this because your favorite artist did it, you’ll never become your own artist.
It’s experimentation, getting comfortable, fucking-up and being okay with it. Right now I’m making pictures by weird angles, surprising myself at times, getting annoyed at others. Eight out of ten times, my pictures during the month aren’t noteworthy but the two times make up for it. It takes years to be good or maybe less, I don’t know, just have fun with it. Care for the process and realize that if you truly loved it, you’ll keep onto it. You won’t give up the thing you love. There might be times, like I did, when you leave it for a while, pursue different interests- just like I did, I stopped taking pictures for two years. But if it’s real love you’ll come back to it. And if you feel bad about procrastination or not having done much in such a long time, notice this, accept it, venture into helpful thoughts (is it going to help you moping about this all day?) and move on.
And while you’re here, grab your camera and go out there. There’s so much out there and it’s all fading away. Even if you manage to capture nothing picturesque in your journey, it will train you for your next one. The next one show similar results but perhaps the one after that will be different. One day you will be better. And that moment, when you realize this, it might fade away too. You’ll doubt yourself again and you’ll quit for a long while. Then you’ll come back again and perhaps you’ll attain that self-confidence again.
These moments come and go, they fade away and never come back. Perhaps you can break the cycle but you’ll never to be aware of this. We can do so much if we are just aware of what’s really happening.
And now I must leave you, now it’s your turn to tell I’m wrong about everything. I wish you good luck on your journey. Remember: sometimes you think you are going one way, and then you find yourself in another. Have faith, be open, cherish the moment you’re here. It would be all taken away from us, but perhaps that one moment, the one that means everything, will stay somehow. A picture that never seizes to amaze us.

Picture belongs to Tom Plevnik, https://tomplevnik.wordpress.com/

***

The Picture That Changes Everything: the Pleasant Madness of Street-Photography part 6

6: The Interview

There’s still so much I need to learn, I’m still rather fresh in this field. Since I conducted a few political interviews, I thought it would be education for me to interview a few photographers. One of them was Slovenian street-photographer Tom Plevnik. I had been following him on WordPress and enjoyed his style of photography on his site. When I e-mailed him, he said he would love to do but there was one caveat: his English wasn’t so good.
So when I copied the contents of the e-mail interview through here, I had two choices: leave it like or correct his English? I’m not tell you which one I choose. You can probably guess for yourself. This is not to make fun of him since I have an extremely poor grasp of my own native language- which if you didn’t know was Dutch. English had always been my beloved language. I read in English, I talk mostly in English. The Dutch language always seemed so lame.
Most of the questions I asked pertain the surface level of photography. There are some personal ones and Tom has done his best to answer them. To tell you the truth he waited patiently for me to even send those questions. I wanted something from him and it took me more than a week before I finally send him the list of questions. There were some things going on in my life. Some good things -went on vacation with my girlfriend- some bad – the occasional bout of heightened emotional instability. My mind was all over the place. There are the obsessive-compulsive thoughts that manifests itself in a series of manic habits. It makes me scared of this world, it makes me scared of being alone, it makes me scared of myself. Sometimes it gets really bad, you have to give yourself a break and stop wanting things for a while. You can’t do it too long- you’re not allowed to get used to it- but you can’t push yourself so far that you’ll get some sort of mental breakdown. So I choose to relax for a while, have some cocktails with my woman, get a little drunk, have a few laughs, not giving a fuck about my personal ambitions.
Eventually I have to get back. I get a little anxious if I don’t write for too long. You have to get back on that horse. No fucking excuses. You have to do right on your words, so I finally send the list of questions to Tom. I already had lost on interviewee due to my procrastination- which would have been the content of the still unwritten third interview regarding the political situation in Turkey. If you really want something, you have to go for it. You can’t blame others for bailing out on you if you fail to deliver.
After the questions were asked, it was time to write this article. I interviewed the subject, Tom Plevnik, over a month ago. I I knew what I was supposed to do, but I kept stalling it. There was naturally no rush, there was no deadline besides my own. But I’ve learned that you can’t relax too much. Eventually you gotta get to work. But every time I tried, something was wrong. I could have easily half-assed it: write some intro, copy the interview and voila, there you go. But none of that felt write. I felt I needed to go to a more creative route. It needed to be about something more, something bigger, a greater challenge.
You can’t keep doing the same trick, eventually you gotta expand. You need to get out of your comfort zone. Sometimes one’s comfort zone can be far deadlier than all the monsters outside it. Perhaps this article portrays a maturity of writing- or progression- or perhaps it shows a lack of restraint. It certainly became more personal, closer to a stream-of-consciousness style -hough I honestly never finished any Kerouac book. I’m not saying he’s bad, he just seemed to ramble too much, which might sound like the pot calling the kettle black.
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Picture belongs to Tom Plevnik, https://tomplevnik.wordpress.com/
This article has become more personal and less about Tom. It has become about what it means to be a street-photographer. This was not my original intent but on the other hand, you need to go where your creative spirit takes you. Sometimes it takes you to a completely new direction. And Tom has certainly, taught me things even in his short answers. It would have been easier to interview a more pretentious fop. He will ramble on, he will reveal himself. You have to a choice to dissect his bullshit or go along with his bullshit. To go along with the bullshit is easier. You’re not writing a biography for god’s sake. It’s only supposed to be interesting. Bullshit can be just as interesting as the truth- though rarely as disturbing.
And though I cannot state that I looked into his soul, our correspondence together with this interview proves that Tom isn’t a pretentious man at all. He’s a humble man, the best kind of artist. He just wants to do the ‘one thing’ he loves to do. It makes him feel good when he does it right. There is no illusion of grandeur, there is only the love of the craft.
On his website it says: One Picture Can Change Everything. The picture that changed everything was the one he made with his sister by the sea. I don’t know which picture was the one that changed everything for me. But I hope I can take on in the future, one which will change everything to the viewer who sees it. It will inspire the viewer, it will make him want to do more. He will change the world around him for the better, he will hang this photograph at his workplace.
There is the question of why we venture into the street and make pictures of strangers. I told you my reasons of why street-photography means so much to, now let Tom tell you his:

When did you first start taking an interest in Photography?

Photography has always been present in my life, I don’t know why. I got the first camera in elementary school and the camera was Meikai EL. I still have it somewhere. 

Do you remember the first ‘good’ picture you ever made?

I think I made my first good photo with my sister on the sea, still in elementary school and on a black and white film. I think I still have this photo. 

Which photographers/artists inspired you the most?

For the first time I was first in Paris in 1998, I saw black and white photographs in a gallery. Later, I purchased the first book in an antique shop and found out that it was Henri Cartier-Bresson. Now I prefer Thomas Leuthard. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to take a photo with him in Ljubljana.

What is your famous picture from a famous photographer?

That is Robert Doisneau and his Le Baiser de l’Hôtel de Ville.

Do you have any photography books in your collection? If so, which one is your favorite?

I have many books. But surely my favorite is Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Man, The Image, and The World: A Retrospective, Peter Turnley: Parisians and of course Bystander: A History of Street Photography.

Since I struggle quite a lot with the technical aspects of photography, do you think it’s essential for a photographer to be good in the technical aspects of photography?- knowing the exact ISO, shutter-speed, aperture etc.

I don’t know to be honest. I just stick to the principles of focal length lens and speed of aperture. If the focal length of the lens is 85mm, the shutter speed should be at 1/80. If necessary I’ll adjust the ISO. 

How much time do you devote to your art every week approximately?

Because I’m not a professional photographer and I have a regular job, the photography is intended for weekends.

Do you believe in talent or hard work?

It’s hard to say, but it probably takes a lot of hard work.

You goddamn right… How long did it take for you to take yourself seriously as a photographer?

For the last two years, I have been more intensely involved with photography, and I have begun to call myself a ‘photographer.’

Are you sometimes insecure about your abilities?

Many times, ha ha ha ha ha…

Have there been moments in your life that has inspired your future photography?

There were many moments, one was the last weekend with photographer Natalia Wisniewska.

Is it hard to be an artist/photographer in your country?

Yeah, it’s very difficult. Though we do have many Slovenian photographers, such as Arne Hodalič, Manca Juvan, Matjaž Krivic, etc.

What is your favorite kind of photography- portrait, street, landscape etc.

I really enjoy in street photography. But lately, I like fashionable portrait photography.

Are there any dream projects of photography you hope to do one day but are now impossible?

If I could work in Paris as a photographer fashion photography.

Are you able to look at someone’s work, a photography, and see if they have what it takes?

I do not have official photographic education. I learned everything about photography from books. I do not know, I’m just a visual guy, I like the photo or I do not.

And finally; what kind of advice could you give to an aspiring photographer?
Be yourself, take a lot of photos and enjoy.

Which is basically all the advice one needs.

Picture belongs to Tom Plevnik, https://tomplevnik.wordpress.com/
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The Picture That Changes Everything: the Pleasant Madness of Street-Photography part 5

5: The Kind of Suffering We Are Interested In

The subject isn’t always human, it could be another animal. If you’re aware of my work, you probably noticed that I use the word ‘human animal’ a lot- a term I borrowed from philosopher John Gray actually. It’s important in my mind to not single out humans being different than animals. It would be hubris, it would be wrong. We are animals too, just because we can create or enjoy art doesn’t make us any less of animal than a pig. But the worst hubris of all is the idea that we are ‘better’ than other animals. Sure it would be reasonable to fight our survival rather than a different animal species, but it still wouldn’t give us any more of a right. This idea of rights, like religion or government, are all man-made. They are not universal truths, they are our truths. We need these truths to make us nicer animals- though more often than not, we use these truths to justify heinous acts. We don’t apply them to other species. We’ve trained our children to dilute our conscience for other animals. They are stupid, we are smart, therefore we deserve more. It’s a lie and a dangerous one to boot. Being more evolved doesn’t make us better, it just makes us more powerful.
So the subject of street-photography could be another species of animal as well: the eager dog on leash who went he notices that people are looking at him endearingly, nearly jumps free from his leash just so can receive some heavy petting; a cat lurking the crevices for a little snack, perhaps to give it as a present to her provider; a couple of pigeons hurling downwards with incredible speed when they notice that some guy is throwing a piece of bread away; a rat carrying a pizza down the subway. Their world is not as complicated as ours, though it’s perhaps more perilous. There’s no human drama, just the search for the next meal so they can survive another day. We were much the same in the past. But we evolved, we lost hair, we grew smarter, we were blinded by the fire. We made up a God that told us he created the world just for us. We created empires on our manipulation of the environment through the burning of fossil fuels and the subjugation of animals for livestock. These things were important to us, even if it involved great evil. We’ve destroyed an ecosystem or two. We’ve watched the occasional spill, a spill that became a natural consequence, we cleaned up the goo from animals we’ve always considered too cute too harm. We’ve made excuses to invade countries so we can conquer their oil refineries. All the animals we subjugated for livestock, the mass-genocide we were fine with so long as their bodies are used for fast-food. All the land we needed so that we can slaughter these beautiful creatures. It’s all part of it. So many died so that we can continue pretending this world belongs to us. It became so bad, we are now actually influencing the climate, created manic weather patterns and the prospect of doom for many who live nearby the sea.
The end belongs to us. We won’t be there for a new beginning. Perhaps we will leave enough behind so that other lifeforms will wonder about our existence.
But now, most of us are comfortable. We suffer in various ways, as our lives today conflict with our genetic code of yesterday. Our savage ancestors never needed to invent existentialism to give meaning to their existence or see a therapist about their marital problems. Simple put: we ponder too much shit. Suddenly our existence is supposed to have a great meaning. Suddenly this short time on earth isn’t enough, we demand eternity for something we call our ‘souls’. And we can have this eternity if we just follow several rules- naturally these rules vary across the religions. Even so, most of us don’t need to kill for food, being an accessory to the fact as we shop in grocery stores, is the closest most of us will get. Most of us don’t need to fear predators, perhaps there’s the spiritual kind, the drug-peddlers, the nefarious gurus, the money-suckers, but most of them don’t have claws scratch open your belly nor the jaw filled with sharp teeth that can bite open your neck. While there are enough photographers fascinated by wildlife, who do amazing work as they hide in the bushes, waiting for the predator to pounce on her prey, us street-photographers are far more interested in the quiet suffering of the human animal. On the other hand, the image of a lone dog scrounging for leftovers in an impoverished city might be the most heartbreaking of all. But that’s because of the dog’s innocence, not because we can really connect with this animal. We can connect to a dog through mutual respect or reciprocal love, but not because we can fully understand how it is being a dog. We only know how to be human. It’s not the same connection we have to our fellow humans who are dealing with their complicated humanity. The instinct that has been tarnished the consciousness and expressed itself through the conscious.
There is debate among whether or not the hunters in their prime, lived superior lives than ours. The farmers that came after certainly weren’t happier but it did start the process for our continuing survival. Even if we want to, even if it would be better for us, we can never become this primitive. It’s too late now. We have to be the modern human with all the pain that it entails.
One could state that those who don’t live in affluent countries, live in their own urban jungle. These animals don’t snarl like the animals of your lush jungle, but they do curse and point guns at each other. There the occasional bout of violent machismo, the male that needs to prove that he’s the ALFA and therefore deserves the better woman. Bruce Gilden has made wonderful pictures of these Yakuza gangsters, men who collect their money with stoic expressions. There is no time for mercy, they will hurt you if you don’t pay up. The Alfa-males has organized themselves, they honor their ALFA, the ALFA is protected by lesser ALFA’s. If a lesser ALFA screws up, he might have to chop of a digit. There are rules in their streets but as history has proven, these rules are easily broken. There’s always an asshole among them that inspires others to be even greater assholes. The savagery of the jungle pales in comparison to the savagery of the human animal.
So you make pictures of the youth, the ones who if they don’t receive intervention, they will become just as savage as their fathers. They hang out in abandoned buildings, they play games with each other, they beat down scaredy-cats. The streets are full of them, you can spot them in the way they walk. Some of them are wannabee’s naturally, but some have prospects for greater and more nefarious futures. I don’t often make pictures of them because I don’t want to get in a fight with them. I prefer to make pictures of scaredy-cats like me. People who are trying to make sense of their lives. You see them trapped in their thoughts, they often forget that more often than not: their thoughts are not them, it’s just events in the mind, filled with clutter they should ignore. They confuse it with the murmurs of the soul. But they don’t have a soul, nobody has but we are accustomed to belief and feel that we do. Even if we don’t believe it, we do act like we have one. We cultivate this made-up soul, probably for the better. The things that don’t exist can be imperative for our existence.
The stories we capture in our flash, no matter how poignant they seem, are often imagined. They are part of the illusion or ourselves or based on a shattered dream. They are real because we live them- we are who we pretend to be, so be careful who we pretend to be- but we should have been taught to dilute the ego and seek clarity, make ourselves nothing instead of everything. Instead we have filled our children with this notion that we have all this identity. We didn’t tell them how fragile this mind and its feelings are. We didn’t tell them how easy it is to get lost in the streets. We didn’t tell them that nobody has an answer, and that it’s hard to find your way back if you stray long enough.
Even this philosophical diatribe might be an illusion. There might be several or just one answer to everything. We can’t deny physical reality but the reality in our minds, the fantasy-lands inside us, are hard to ignore. These memetic forces has made us more powerful, has given the greatest chances of survival. Yet even in the most affluent cities we can spot them, we can see it if we look close enough, the people trapped in fantasy-land. The fantasy-land which is empowered by the constant adds and bright lights and their Facebook feeds. There might be freedom for this suffering, but this suffering is what keeps the economy booming.
But through all this suffering, the right photograph can give it meaning. The suffering of others can move us, make us feel less alone. The whole point of art is make our suffering meaningful. The difference with street-photography is that we never ask for permission. So people get angry, they ask you to delete it. The trouble is, if we asked them, we wouldn’t be able to capture the truth. We have to be bold, we have to be rude. We suffer as well, we just want a glimpse of your suffering so we can feel better about yourself. Somehow, perhaps there is no great reason, we must express ourselves through the lens of this camera.
Bruce Gilden often makes pictures of these street creatures, you will have intimate close-ups of junkies with no teeth or old men with shrunken faces, a life that has given them some form of facial deformity. They accuse Bruce of making fun of them, but it’s not like that at all. He finds them as beautiful, if not more than all the models on these adds. And I have to agree with him- models are just too fucking boring.
And we apologize for your suffering, but we’re just trying to make it beautiful. It would be a shame to waste all that suffering.

Picture belongs to Tom Plevnik, https://tomplevnik.wordpress.com/
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The Picture That Changes Everything: the Pleasant Madness of Street-Photography part 4

4: The Glimpse

There’s the world surrounding the subject, there’s the energy of the streets. It’s part of a story we will never fully know. The Street-photographers tries to capture this part of the story inside the flash of his camera. It doesn’t always work, the focus might be wrong. The eye must receive the necessary information in less than a second. The eye must feel compelled to take a closer look. If this happens, the photograph is good. It should capture the viewer immediately. There is just something, even if its a photograph of something mundane, that captures their attention. If this does not happen, if the viewer loses interests within seconds, the photographer has failed the story.
Imagine a movie, a dramatic scene of dialog between two spouses who are on the verge of getting a divorce. The actor must the emote the tragedy of the screen, the connection is becoming lost between these two people. The chemistry must be there, but if you take a still picture of that scene, the body language must confirm the content of this scene. Image them looking away or looking down, or looking at each other with wanting and desperate eyes. If the still is at the wrong moment, this information might be lost. Timing is everything.
One must remember though that there is always something interesting going on, even in the mundane moments. It’s just that not every moment is as picturesque. A war-torn country has a lot of energy, I’m not saying that everyone can make beautiful photographs there, but you are bound to make some interesting ones. There’s a greater victory in capturing normalcy, making it look beautiful. You wouldn’t notice the old man reading the newspaper, but the Street-photographer saw something and now this old man is something special. Now you begin to wonder about the old man’s story.
Often times The Street-photographer never really knows if the picture will work. Sometimes they are so sure that they have something special but when they look back, it’s not there anymore. The angle was wrong, the ISO was too high, the shutter-speed is off or they simply missed it. They were simply too slow. They missed that one precious second that would have made all the difference. Other times The Street-photographer manages to make a picture that at first, didn’t seem that noteworthy but when they look through the collection of the day, they realized that they have something much more than they had initially thought. The caught the energy, the subjects come alive. They have more of a story than they had initially presumed. We often don’t know we have a story until we actually look at the photograph.
They forget that the shutter catches more than you think. There’s the story of graffiti in the subway and as the Street-photographer pushes the shutter button, a lone human lighting a cigarette is getting captured inside the flash as well. Both the graffiti and the human become one subject, one whole story or two sides of the story; the history of the graffiti- the city perhaps- and the history of the lone man. It doesn’t matter how shitty the graffiti art is or how seemingly unassuming the lone man looks, if you capture it right, you catch part of an interesting story. There’s a wonderful book of Polaroid pictures, Colors, The Polaroids by Dennis Hopper, which, as the title suggests was made while he was scouting for locations for his gang-land drama Colors. Looking at the vast kinds of graffiti in L.A., he understood there were stories behind these paint sprays, it enamored him, he needed to make pictures of this- besides being an masterful actor and director, he was an equal master photographer. He understood there were stories there, they deserved to be seen. He captured not just the atmosphere of the streets but the mindset of the youth and artists who left these messages on these walls.
The first time I really began to get serious street-photography, I started with makings numerous pictures of trash such cans of energy drinks or cigarette butts, whatever you could think of that would be lying on the street, and many, perhaps rightfully so, laughed at me, ”why is that guy making a picture of that can of coke?” one pedestrian said to her partner as they passed me. Irregardless, I felt there was something there, though at first I couldn’t explain exactly why. I guess it could be subconscious, you more you let yourself be free with your art, the more you reveal of yourself. Often times I’m writing and suddenly veered into a subject that was dear to me, even though I wasn’t planning on it. It’s about the imagination then, if you make the art vague enough, the viewer/reader might interpret it in their own way- perhaps the pictures of trash by Mr. van Dijk represents the our carelessness of the environment! Art needs to be personal, not just to the artist but to the one that enjoys it. Even if it isn’t personal to the viewer/reader, he will make it personal. An artist often times doesn’t know why he’s drawn to one direction. He just feels there’s something there and so he needs to go there- same as how this article went.
It’s the little things, if you can capture the little things, the bigger things come easier. A shattered beer-bottle might have been used during a fight, perhaps if you look close enough, you would see some smears of blood. This was a battle between two brothers, the story of Cain and Abel resurrected in the twenty-first century. All these examples are props for the seemingly mundane yet complex stories. Just like artifacts of an ancient past, we wonder about what we are seeing, we research and we can only image about its users. These props were used while these subjects were contemplating great things. A little moment might evoke a greater truth. A simple moment captured between two lovers on the streets can be considered everything, making a picture of them sharing a piece of pie might be even better than seeing them kiss on the streets. The kissing might evoke youth, the beginning sparks of a promising romantic relationship while the sharing of the pie, might evoke comfortability with each other, a deeper intimacy between the two- if you made a picture of them together in a private hotel room, you would see one of them laugh as they smell the fart of their significant other. If you made a picture of the plate where the pie was eaten, with the fork laying on it, some crumbs still left, you would catch part of a story. The story might be more clear if the couple were in the picture, but the glimpse of their story is there. Remember: it’s always about the glimpse, the street-photographer will never get the full story, the writer may but never the street-photographer. We can only catch a glimpse, the glimpse is all that matters. Our job is to catch that glimpse and make it look good so that the viewer of the photograph, can wonder about what was behind that glimpse.
The details are everything, you want to be like Sherlock Holmes and catch all the details so you can uncover the mystery but you never will. The random person on the street, seemingly on a great mission, we can only wonder what this mission was. The rambling drifter, we can only imagine where his madness came from. The worried middle-aged woman, what was she worried about? The pubescent with green hair and dirty clothing, is this a sign of rebellion and individualism or this a sign of neglectful parenting? Tourists, people on a break from the jobs they hate. People on meditation retreats, closing their eyes, feeling the moment. There’s so much to tell, you wish you could freeze time just so you could make pictures all day. If there was an eternity, I would spend a hundred years just making pictures.
In the end, we are storytellers, even if we catch only part of the story. Sometimes that little seemingly insignificant part is just as poignant as the whole story. Photography can teach us, in a sort of Buddhist manner, to look at life differently. Unlike a movie or literature where often enough life is perceived as ‘the whole story, where every part is intrinsic to this one character, his tragedies and ultimately his death. It’s not always like that and perhaps it’s not even a proper way to perceive our existence. It’s one way to look at it but not the definitive way. We shouldn’t perceive life as so simplistically cinematic. Life is a series of fleeting moments, it all goes away too quickly. To my mind, in this fleeting moment of consciousness this wisdom comes to mind: the only way we can keep these moments safe from our fleeting memories, even if the complete experience is forever gone, is by taking a picture.

Picture belongs to Tom Plevnik, https://tomplevnik.wordpress.com/
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