Jul 29, 2012

To Photograph, or Intervene?

One of the ethical dilemmas of photographers involves capturing controversial or tragic events. Does a photographer stand back and take pictures, or intervene to help the subjects?

Photography is all about documenting events and people. Some images captured by photographers are powerful, heart breaking, startling, even horrifying. 
(image credit: Graeme Robertson/Getty Images)

But what do photographers who capture such images feel about their decision to keep taking pictures?

The Guardian has an excellent story about this subject, with photographers describing the circumstances of their arresting images and their thoughts about choosing to take pictures. This is a moral quandary every photojournalist faces at one point or another.

LINK to slide show story 

A perfect example of this concept is the iconic "Napalm Girl" photograph, below.

This is one of the most famous photographs ever published.

This grim image captured the horror of the Vietnam War the way no other photo had, and became famous worldwide, winning a Pulitzer prize for photography.

The photo was taken in the  Vietnamese town of Trang Bang by Associated Press photographer Nick Ut on June 8, 1972.

The children running down the road are fleeing from a napalm (a burning, jelly-like substance) attack launched by the South Vietnamese. The girl in the center of the photograph is Kim Phuc, and she was just nine years old when she ran from her village after it was attacked. The napalm jelly had burned through her clothes, and moments after snapping what would be an iconic photograph, Nick Ut brought the young girl to a hospital and demanded she be treated, saving her life. The Associated Press almost didn't run the story because of the nudity, but the local press chief decided that the image was so powerful it deserved to be published.

Kim Phuc eventually recovered from her burns and now lives in Canada. The Guardian newspaper has a fascinating story about Ms. Phuc, the life she led, and the origin of one of the most famous and iconic photographs ever taken.

President Richard Nixon, who was determined to win the war in Vietnam, reacted to the photo and its impact by stating he believed it was altered. More than any other factor, photography has the power to influence public opinion, and word events, and this image is exhibit A.

Jul 24, 2012

A Swinging Buzz With A Hip Cat

One of my favorite artists that I see each year at DragonCon is Derek, who creates retro, whimsical, hipster art filled with the groovy, slangy vibe of the sixties. His website is HERE. 

Once again DragonCon has asked him to design the official DragonCon tee-shirt, and once again Derek created an awesome illustration. He designed the 2010 DragonCon tee-shirt as well, and I bought a limited edition print that is framed and hanging on my wall in my studio.

I want this one. Big time.

So I wrote Derek an e-mail in a way he could relate, and he send back a fantastic response. Enjoy! 

My email:

Hey cool cat, I snatched up one of the limited edition prints of the Dragncon 2010 image you did; it's framed and hanging in my studio. I just got the Dragoncon 2012 program, and see you did another hip sketch for us cool costuming cats. I picked up a couple other of your swingin' pieces last year too. In fact, I put bamboo on the walls to make my own hip shack to chill and distill in.

I'm needing one of those prints, man, catch my drift? Like, I'll be slummin' and bummin' if I don't get one! A tee-shirt ain't gonna get the beat going, dude! If you do a run of prints, send me a telegraph, and I'll be chillin' like a villain. This scene is too hip to fade away on a tee, dig it? 

On the flipside with spicy mustard,

Mike Lyman

Derek's response:

Howdy Michael......

So glad ya' dig the doodles, Dad!......No need to flip your wig, man......I'll be makin' with the DragonCon prints this go around! Drop in on the gig so's you can get your paws on one! It's a sure thing, Chicken Wing!

Dig ya' soon, Baboon!

Crazy, man!

Jul 8, 2012

A Tribute To Ernest Borgnine

"There are no small roles, only small actors."
-Ernest Borgnine, Dragoncon discussion panel, 2011

One of my favorite actors passed away on Sunday, July 8th 2012, after having a full life and a movie career that spanned over sixty incredible years.

Ernest Borgnine, born Ermes Effron Borgnino, was an American institution and accomplished actor. I was lucky enough to get an autographed picture and a photo taken in costume with him at Dragoncon in 2011.

 to New York Times article

Ernest Borgnine, a larger than life figure, retained a zest for life and infectious laugh right up until the end. A modest, unassuming man who, when not acting,  traveled in an RV mingling with the public, starred in a seemingly endless list of movies and television shows, not demanding the limelight, but viewing acting as being part of an ensemble (unlike stars such as William Shatner, who was known to count lines in a script to make sure he had the most dialogue). He was charming, gracious, talented and grateful to his fans. He was truly one of the great ones, and the world is a sadder place in his absence.

Some of his most memorable roles included:
  • Marty in Marty
  • Quinton McHale, McHale's Navy
  • Major General Worden in The Dirty Dozen
  • Mike Rogo, The Poseidon Adventure
  • Shack, Emperor Of the North
  • Sheriff Lyle "Cottonmouth" Wallace, Convoy
  • Cabbie, Escape From New York
  • Dominic Santini, Airwolf (television series)
LINK to Wikipedia entry about Ernest Borgnine

In the picture above, I am at Dragoncon in 2011 in my Snake Plissken costume, a character from the John Carpenter cult sci-fi film Escape From New York, and was lucky enough to get a picture with him in costume. Borgnine played the role of Cabbie:

In this clip, Mr. Borgnine talks about his role in the movie in Escape From New York:

Ernest Borgnine's last interview (jump to :55 on the video). At 3:10 in the video below, Ernest Borgnine talks about what he's learned in the film business, which explains why he was such a successful actor, and why he will be so missed and mourned by his fans and colleagues:

One of his more memorable roles in the 1970s was Sheriff Lyle Wallace in the trucker movie Convoy. In this scene he commandeers a car to catch up with the convoy of trucks. You can watch the entire movie HERE. It was one of the most famous of the '70s trucker movies, directed by Sam Peckinpah, based on a song by C.W. McCall. It glamorized the life of the American trucker, not very realistically. But Borgnine's performance carries the film. Jump to 9:30 to see a good scene between Kris Kristoferson and Ernest Borgnine.

A scene from McHale's Navy, which gave Mr. Borgnine a much wider audience:


A great clip from Dragoncon 2011 where Mr. Borgnine did a discussion panel. I was not able to make this one, to my great regret. I wish I had. You can watch the entire discussion panel HERE (fortunately someone recorded it for us!)

Goodbye, Ernest. The world will miss your presence.

Jul 5, 2012

Fireworks In Paradise

One of the perks of living in a tropical climate is the beach, and one of the best things about having the beach are the activities that take place on them, and one of the best activities on the beach are Fourth of July fireworks. 

It just doesn't get any better than this.

Enjoy these pictures I shot of July 4th fireworks at Treasure Island Beach! 
(all photographs copyright Magnum Arts)

Click on pictures for large view

Treasure Island Beach was transformed into a tropical Woodstock, with live music, food vendors, a huge inflatable slide and rock climbing wall, and sail-driven sand racers.

One of the regular beach denizens is Stephen Daniels, who assists people who have been accused of DUI offenses (see his website HERE). Daniels tows a trailer onto the beach with his bike filled with beach gear, including a bamboo mat, a bar, three flags, umbrellas, two battery powered blenders, beach chairs, and a boom box, among other things. He sets up camp on the beach and makes mixed drinks, sharing them with his friends. He supplied me with a tasty mango margarita!

No sand is allowed on the bamboo mat (he has a foot wash and broom to keep it clean). This is a man who takes his beach time seriously.

Below: Daniels' beach encampment. The man in the bikini on the right is a professor and has published numerous books on history. He wears a bikini and makeup and doesn't care what other people think. He enjoys life his own way, unburdened by conformity, and he bothers no one.

Good for him, I say.

Daniels also set up this mini beach bar right in the water, complete with shade. Ahhh, life is good!

A large area on the beach is kept clear for the fireworks crews to set up.

Below: a close-up of the fireworks, which resemble mortar rounds. The chemical composition of the rounds determine the colors.

The beach is jammed with people as the sun makes its way toward the horizon

Boats begin to assemble, jockeying for space to catch a good spot to watch the show

As the sun begins its final descent on the Gulf of Mexico, it becomes clear what a treat it is to live where you can experience life on the beach

The beach is more crowded than I've ever seen it as people arrive to check out the evening's show and beat the sultry humidity. Dusk is invading the sky

Almost showtime!


...and after the show, there is the huge amount of traffic all trying to get home. A forty minute drive took over an hour and a half. Oh well. It was worth it!

Jul 2, 2012

Sunset on Indian Rocks Beach

There's nothing like watching a sunset on the Gulf of Mexico...it makes living in Florida seem special. This night the beach was crowded with people looking to escape the humidity.

The beach doesn't look the same at all after Tropical Storm Debbie erased a huge slice of it, leaving just a narrow band of sand and decimated sea oats. Turtle nests have also been heavily impacted.