Remembering Bodhi

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My sweet old dog Bodhi died this week. It was hard for me to know how to process the loss. Jennifer made a little memorial for him, complete with candles and little prints in painted frames. I've got tens of thousands of images, so I began digging through a decade of photos looking for just the right picture of him. I found one I took with my iPhone a few months ago.

Next I decided to go through the process we ask people to go through at Neomodern: I signed up for an online concierge appointment...

Yesterday I got online while Arturo tweaked the photo. It's a tricky one to print. I wanted Lee in shadow so it took an extra moment to notice her; if she's too light you see her immediately... too dark, she gets lost. Arturo did a great job. By the time I got to the gallery Bodhi was mounted -- but i didn't want it framed yet -- i wanted to add a little private note to the print before it was placed into a frame, out of view, but permanent... then a few minutes later the framing was done.

I miss Bodhi, but I'm happy to have this print... happy to have this framed. I don't know what it is about a photo, but it felt important to have a nice print of him. Healing begins.

Arturo sent me a link that let me see him working on the image.

Arturo sent me a link that let me see him working on the image.

Adobe Lightroom showing the image uploaded and the image as it is being enhanced... sometimes the adjustments are very subtle, but they matter a lot.

Adobe Lightroom showing the image uploaded and the image as it is being enhanced... sometimes the adjustments are very subtle, but they matter a lot.

Success.

Success.

What Neomodern Exhibits

Irving Penn, "Frozen Foods, New York" 1977

Irving Penn, "Frozen Foods, New York" 1977

In the collection of photography I manage are works by artists including Jerry Uelsmann and Irving Penn, and I like their photos very much. But the question comes up: should I show them in the NEOMODERN gallery on Union Street? Similarly, I'm sometimes asked by other artists—painters and ceramicists—if we might ever do a show of their work.

Even though I like all this work, it's pretty clear to me that NEOMODERN is not showing any of these things. So how do we choose?

Jerry Uelsmann, "Floating Tree" 1969

Jerry Uelsmann, "Floating Tree" 1969

Here's our exhibit guidelines. First, only photography. We're all about photography and we're only going to show photography. So if it's not photographic, it's not even in the ballpark. Next, even for photographs, none that have special effects. Additionally, no photos that are the result of studio work. We want the gallery to demonstrate the best works in one particular style—a basic "street photography"—not because it's better than some other visual style, but because it is work regular people can typically do with their smartphones. NEOMODERN wants to show artworks that consumers can emulate in some way, and that we believe has something to teach us about photography. So we show great photos, whether by Cartier-Bresson with a Leica, or my dentist with an iPhone, but only straight, candid, not "produced" images.

So we won't show paintings. And unfortunately, we're not going to show Uelsmann or Penn either. But it doesn't mean we don't love them.

New (Funny) Show in April

I know I said i'd be rotating through the museum displays with some frequency, but I was really settling into the selection of Cartier-Bresson, Kertesz, Doisneau and Erwitt that we had up on the main wall, and having trouble motivating to change it. But when Carlos suggested we focus on April Fools Day and put up a new "fun" show i recognized it was an awesome idea and we immediately got to work reframing some of the collection.

Robert Doisneau, "Dog on Wheels," Paris 1977

Interestingly, the show is STILL Cartier-Bresson, Kertesz, Doisneau and Erwitt, but instead of the more romantic and moody selections we were featuring previously, for the current exhibit, we're looking at humor. Because of this, fantastic prints by Elliott Erwitt are moving center stage (For me, he is one of the most influential photographers on my street photography, and I think he could be for you too.) Come explore the funny juxtapositions and surprising subjects, the silly, the sweet, the ironic. A dozen new (old) photos by these masters of street photography will be on display through April.

Elliott Erwitt, "The Painting Studio" East Hampton, NY, 1983

Einstein at Neomodern

On display today (and for a little while) is a photograph of Albert Einstein taken at Princeton in 1941 by Roman Vishniac.

According to ICP: "Hoping to establish himself as a portrait photographer by creating a series of images of famous Russian and German Jewish expatriates, Vishniac contacted Albert Einstein and asked to take his portrait in late 1941, shortly after he arrived with his family in the United States. The Nobel Laureate sat for a series of photographs in his office at the Institute for Advanced Study while smoking a pipe, writing at his desk, having his portrait painted, and working on equations on the blackboard."

My father was a big fan of both Einstein and Vishniac so it made sense that we had a portfolio of their collaborations when the 80 year old Vishniac printed some in the 1970s. My father also collected other cool images, some iconic, of Einstein: by Hagemeyer (1931), Jacobi (1938), Halsman (1947), Karsh (1948), Orkin (1953), and others. But nothing felt as intimate as the Vishniacs, seeing Einstein at work. When I was in high school I hung one these Vishniacs above my bed, I think hoping something would rub off.

Vishniac, "A Son Goes to Chedar" (Father taking his son to school), 1937 — also currently on display at Neomodern.

Roman Vishniac was best known, however, for his intimate photographs of the Jewish ghettos in Poland just up to their decimation in WWII, and it was from this body of work that bonded Vishniac and my father. Vishniac died in 1990, but they had become acquainted in the last decade in the photographer's life, and I grew up around his prints, and their associated stories.

Photo Essay: Netflix, 2007 — The Jump to Streaming

Scientist Stan Lanning

CTO/Chief Product Officer Neil Hunt with the working prototype.

Has it been so many years? I increasingly meet people who didn’t know about (or remember) the Netflix red envelope and the delivery of DVDs, so they might not appreciate the struggle to move from DVDs to streaming. So these are images during the "Blockbuster years" and of the genesis of streaming at Netflix. Looking back now I realize what an unusual moment that was, one that I was privileged to experience. I was an employee, but I frequently kept my camera out, and everyone sorta knew this was what I did. In the years from 2005 to 2008, doubling from 4 to 8 million DVD subscribers, the already fast growing company was about to hit an inflection point—how would it leap from DVD rentals and delivery into streaming?

CEO Reed Hastings (framed by Bob Henderson, former Postmaster General of the US and Netflix exec

These images are from a single executive gathering in January 2007, where the Netflix box was completed and internally debuted, and instantly killed—spun back into Roku; while Netflix put its software inside every TV-connected device being created at the time, and continued to work on content. I've added a couple images from later that year, at a similar gathering. In hindsight, these quarterly gatherings were historic. It was an awesome time to be at the company. 

 

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The Netflix Box, later released as the first Roku box.

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Content Officer Ted Sarandos flanked by Talent Officer Patty McCord (co-creator of the "Netflix Deck") and Content Director Erin Ruane.

CMO Leslie Kilgore, creator of the famous red envelope and brand (chatting with Patty McCord) and flanked by content VP Cindy Holland (left) and Tawni Cranz (right). [Sept. 2007]

CMO Leslie Kilgore, creator of the famous red envelope and brand (chatting with Patty McCord) and flanked by content VP Cindy Holland (left) and Tawni Cranz (right). [Sept. 2007]

Sarandos with Content VPs Robert Kyncl and Erin Ruane. [Sept 2007]

Sarandos with Content VPs Robert Kyncl and Erin Ruane. [Sept 2007]

 

All images in this post copyright © 2007 by M.H. Rubin, All rights reserved. www.byrubin.com

It Starts with a Selfie

To the degree possible, I’d like to help people take better, more expressive, and more personal photographs. Just a decade ago, the only people who had the equipment to take great photos were hobbyists, artists, and pros; today we all have access to remarkable cameras. To be good isn't much about the equipment, it's about learning to see; and it only takes looking at lots of images for our brains to start to see things in a new way. Composing photographs on the fly, as it were, is a craft. There’s natural ability, like anything, but it’s mostly practice. While I manage a collection of many historic and beautiful photographs, there are a select few I think are particularly appropriate to show in the Neomodern gallery—the work of the mid-century street photographers of Paris, mostly. The beautiful, funny, poignant work of Robert Doisneau, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Andre Kertesz, and Elliott Erwitt, to name just a few, is characteristically similar to the kind of photographs people readily take with a smartphone: handheld, candid and mostly unposed, unlit by artificial means… they are not of models, or shot in a studio… and they aren’t “conceptual” or complicated, they are just snapshots from gifted photographers. Good for lots of different reasons. Sometimes even blurry, sometimes framed oddly. Still magical.

by Julia Matsudaira

by Julia Matsudaira

Seeing the world through their eyes gives us a nuanced reference for improving our photos. They tacitly give us permission to see things differently, to crop, to break rules. Because there are no rules. I don’t think people need to take classes at first, or learn software. It all begins with looking at pictures, and taking pictures. For many people, it starts with a selfie.

by Kyra Davis

by Kyra Davis

When those historic photographs were taken back in the 1940s, they were printed by someone who was particularly skilled at seeing and printing photographs; sometimes it was the photographer, but many times it was a printer. The printer is the partner to the photographer. They are a team, like a movie director and editor. In many cases, the images that we see as iconic are collaborations.

Our company has a simple purpose: to collaborate with people with cameras in the printing of their work, and to make a lasting physical object. I’d like to connect people to the historic work of artists like Kertesz and Cartier-Bresson through their own picture taking. There’s a direct connection from you with your smartphone to Ansel Adams.

Seeing a beautiful manifestation of your tiny digital image … it’s a cool thing. There’s a reason the hobby of photography has long flourished—the enshrining of a moment, rendering it permanent, is enormously gratifying. It’s great that we can so easily take pictures today. It’s wonderful that we have a constant opportunity to make them really good and occasionally special.