Juin Détournement: Image a day for the summer of 2014

•July 14, 2014 • Leave a Comment

On the way to Quebec from the midwest this spring, we spent a morning at the George Eastman International Museum of Photography and Film in Rochester.  i’d been wanting to visit this space for quite a long time but wandering the halls i was left with that queer, uneasy sensation that often strikes me in such institutions: i was oddly disappointed and even disturbed by the whole affair and for a moment i could not exactly figure out why. the museum was very well laid out — albeit in a grandiose, imperial, self-conscious sort of way — and the staff was kind, even cheery, but the exhibits were claustrophobic, narrow and lacking in vision despite their sweeping ambition. our visit was before the summer’s exhibition of Lewis Hine’s iconic portraits of child laborers during the progressive era, and perhaps if i had seen this show it would have altered my impressions of the space, but although the work they had on display was for the most part technically stunning, the content of it all left me questioning the state of the art — and the arts more generally in this age of corporate domination. to begin with, the museum’s curation of pavel wolberg’s photographs of Hasidic communities in israel was offensive in light of the orchestrated state terrorism taking place within occupied Palestine during our visit.  wolberg’s admittedly gorgeous images did succeed in humanizing the hasidim but they gave no hint of the geographic and cultural battles framing the contested space that bound their lives. whether this was the choice of the eastman house or the artist, a photographer who has displayed a sly talent for disclosing the internal cost, the brutal ironies and the raw contradictions of zionism in his other work, i do not know. but for me, the exclusion amounted to an act of erasure that obscured a potentially potent revelation.

In the adjoining chamber, robert weingarten’s testimonial to the Amish offered an even colder, more distant portrait of a community struggling to come to terms with the cascading inevitability of the modern world.  before showing up i was especially primed to see the museum’s large format exhibit. but this too was a let down….slim pickings with only about eight images on display without any real thematic cohesion to bind them together apart from the fact that they were all very, very big. anyway, we had just seen a far more in depth look at Andrew Moore’s epic work at the Detroit Institute of Arts. the DIA (which is under pressure to sell off its collections in order to pay for a half century of divestment, outsourcing and white flight), actually managed to give Moore enough room to display his bold prints of the city’s decline…curatorial choices aside, something else was gnawing at me about the eastman house.


What really brought me down the most about touring the Eastman Home and Museum was the inescapable awareness of optic power that saturated the institution and its walls — the deeply contested economy of the gaze that is embodied in the figure of eastman and is such an emblematic feature of the idiom he helped transform.  above and beyond the choice of photographers and photographs, what was truly on display in Rochester was the ability of corporate entities to pass themselves off as benevolent citizens. and eastman’s elitist, condescending posture towards “the people” the images appeared to be celebrating came across on the imposing walls of his mansion — privilege and power wrapped itself around the technology it was canonizing, adding to the estrangement of an art form from the very people it so brazenly fetishizes within its field of vision. this tension was all the more ironic given that eastman is the figure most responsible for “democratizing” the technology of image reproduction, making it available to the working class in much the same way that ford’s Model T allowed the average laboring family to possess an automobile. portable photography is one of the most revolutionary tools of our age.  the canon powershot and the iphone have become the people’s paintbrush, our collective memory chamber and a technology of defense in an age of state violence and hyper-surveillance. like andrew carnegie, eastman was one of the last century’s great philanthropists, contributing untold millions of dollars to help establish colleges, universities and research programs– all of which came with an economic and cultural price in that it reinforced our dependency upon capitalist accumulation and the concentration of wealth as a source of social cohesion. a close friend of booker t. washington during his heyday, eastman poured money into the Tuskegee and Hampton Institutes and was one of the largest donors to the amerikan eugenics society. the heart of citizens united is, no doubt, buried in an ostentatious grave in kodak Park, Rochester.


This summer I will be taking a picture a day. because i’m lugging around my laptop and a bunch of books as i pedal around the city, most of the shots are taken with an iphone instead of my nikon. so the technical quality of the images is a bit off. at first this bothered me but i’m actually coming to like the effect.  some of the results can be surprising in a pleasant way.  it reminds me of shooting with an old Polaroid when i was a kid. you took what you took and you got what you got. some of my earliest childhood memories are framed by blurry faces and bleeding light. this project has already been rewarding, and not only because a portrait of my détournement through the streets of montreal is emerging — an impressionistic journal that will not only stay with me but frame how i remember the past.

But also because — as i was writing to an old friend of mine recently — when i am thinking about taking pictures it changes the way i occupy and move through space. i notice light differently, i notice spatial dynamics and tones with a more acute sensitivity. i’m even more aware of natural time as opposed to the enforced rhythm of the industrial clock…it is odd that such an advanced technology could help one become more in tune with the environment, that it could help soothe the wound of alienation. i’m spending my days writing in either a cafe or the library and when i leave at around five o’clock i often have the sensation that i’ve missed the world.  photography propels me into another frame of mind.

Observing my landscape after a period of concentration, i am noticing how the angle of my sight-line reflects the preoccupations of my work. this is very interesting because it suggests that how i see mirrors how i think….and vice versa no doubt.  in june, my meditations on the idea of spatial literacy in a piece on my travels through South America has re-focused my attention on the use of wall-writing and how it captures the ghostly aura of subjects the way that light leaves traces upon a silver emulsion. 

As i mentioned, these days i’m using a relatively old iphone to capture images.  many of the shots were taken at night under an ambient light. if possible, i try not to use an instagram filter just like i don’t photoshop the images i take with my other camera. with an iphone, however, its all about playfulness so at times it’s fun to go all out gaudy. at the end of the day, anything goes…

Well, anyway, here they are.  my daily images for the month of june. eastman be damned.  thank you very much, but bugger off old chap.  we’ll take it from here…

(oh, and if anyone has any information about the artists whose work is represented in these images, or the back-story behind them, please let us know!)

cops are creepy
Beaubien E et Papineau

Rue St. Barnard
Av Oglivy et Rue Durocher
Avenue Duluth et Rue Buillon
I have just found out that this piece of work was done by Zola Mtl, a woman street artist, or collective, putting up some beautiful stuff around the city!No Filter — with ZOLA street art and Zola Mtl.
Rue Milton et Rue Sainte Famille
Filter: Rise
Filter: LO-FI
Rue de Bleury et Concorde
Boulevard Saint-Laurent et Rue Saint Norbert
Rue Jarry et Avenue de L’Épee
Av du Parc et Rue Saint Zotique
Boulevard Saint-Laurant
I believe this was an in an alley between
Rue Saint Urbain et Rue Clark
Rue Saint Dominique et Rue Marie-Anne
Rue Saint Dominique et Rue Roy Est
Filter: None, but Completely Toyed With
Montreal War
Avenue du Parc et Rue Saint Viateur
Filter: Valencia
Rue Sainte Catherine E et Rue Wolfe
Rue Clark et Sainte-Catherine
A Vertical Triptych
Rue Marie Anne et Avenue Esplanade?


Part One: Never Mind the Butter…just give me the guns

•January 16, 2013 • Leave a Comment
News of the Dead….December 31 – January 6 

rev·o·lu·tion [rev-uh-loo-shuhn]


1.a riddle, the answer to which involves a pun or play on words, as: What is black and white and read all over? A newspaper.

2.a bottle, a child with outstretched arms, a drunk’s brain…a yarn.

nineteen fifty-seven.  the year of Kurosawa’s throne of blood and Bergman’s the seventh seal.  of Kerouac’s on the road, of leave it to beaver, ofsputnik and the Cat in the Hat.  nineteen fifty-seven was the year of the Little Rock Nine, the year Tunisia became a republic and the year the gold coast merged with togoland to become Ghana.

nineteen fifty-sevenwas the year that a twenty-eight year old freelance journalist on assignment for the weekly Paris Match, smuggled himself into Cuba by posing as a refugee from the Galician Isles. with the help of Vilma Espín, leader of the 26th of July Movement’s underground spy network,Enrique Meneses (October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013) slipped past batista’s cordon of the Sierra Maestra and awoke one morning in a campesino’s shed looking into the face of Fidel Castro.

the Sierra Maestra was already a mythic terrain, full of history and legends of resistance.  it had sheltered the Taíno Indians during their unrelenting war against spain.  it embraced the refugees from the sugar plantations of the low lands who escaped to the mountains to form autonomous Cimarrón communities, feeding on the bounty of its lush vegetation and defying the racial phobias of the colonial project.  there they hid and there they survived. 

four months after entering what must have felt like an alternate universe, Meneses emerged with a collection of negatives that sparked the imagination of militants, philosophers, intellectuals, artists and social movements from Africa to the San Francisco Bay…they were photographs that revolutionized the very idea of revolution itself…


Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013

what armchair radical hasn’t at one time or another dreamt of spending at least a three-day weekend sitting around a campfire trading stories with rugged and battle hardened comrades; roasting Hutia on a stick, drinking rum from a silver flask, smoking phallic cigars to the sound of gunfire on the distant horizon.  of waking at sunrise to take a piss and pot-shots at gloomy, irredeemable fascists… the zombies of history lurking forlorn and adventureless in the valley below? Meneses’ portraits of young but disciplined guerrilla fighters locked in a david and goliath showdown with the batista regime shimmer with masculine intensity; making guerrilla warfare look like an outward bound program beckoning to the alienated outcasts of the western world.

whatever one’s view of the Cuban Revolution, or even the idea of militancy itself, Meneses’ bold images remain one of the signature achievements of modern photojournalism — their power long outliving the insurgent context of nineteen fifty-seven. he gave the world its first intimate look at Fidel and Raul and helped transform Che Guevara, Celia Sanchez, Vilma Espín and Camilio Cienfuegos into icons of anti-imperial, anti-capitalist resistance.

himself an exile from franco’s fascist spain, during his brief time with the rebels Meneses was apparently more than a quiet bystander taking pictures unobtrusively from the margins of armed conflict.  according to one Castro biographer, Robert Quirk:

Meneses embraced the life of a guerrilla fighter with enthusiasm.  On one occasion he rashly took part in an attack on an army post.  He hiked with the rebel band, up to thirteen hours a day, forded rivers, ate malangas and yucca, and slept in a hammock, strung up each night between two trees.


from left to right: Fidel, Raul and Enrique Meneses

despite the sentimentalism they nurtured, there is an undeniable fortitude in the human dimensions of Meneses work that compels us to feed our imaginations…to stay one step ahead of the opium of futility that poisons our fight against the power of the police-state and the apparatus of trans-national capitalism.  as a photographer, for me the strength of Meneses images ultimately derives from their ability to illuminate what Henri Cartier-Bresson called the decisive moment:  he is a master of capturing the casual glance, the unguarded gesture, the nuance of everyday sentiments. the ability to bathe his images with the circulation of affects was, no doubt, a reflection of his immersion not only in his subject matter as noun, but in his own process as verb.

Enrique Meneses- Fidel-Castro

A break in the fighting, Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013

Enrique Meneses - El Che Guevara, Fidel Castro y Camilo Cienfuegos

Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, Camilio Cienfuego and soldiers prepare for an assault during the battle of pina de agua:

Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013


In thought, Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013.


Consultation, Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013


Creation of (a new) man, Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013


Empty pop bottles, Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013

Enrique Meneses - Celia Sanchez and Vilma Espin 2

Celia Sanchez and Vilma Espín, Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013

Enrique Meneses - Castro Reading

Reading by candlelight with help, Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013


Examining arms, Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013

Castro Crossing River

Crossing over, Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013


The arrival of Che, Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013


Camilio Cienfuegos, Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013


Raul Castro with child, Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013


Celia Sanchez laying low, Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013

Baby Crying Siestra Maestra

Crying child, Sierra Maestra, Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013

Che Guevara

Che discussing strategy, Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013


Che Guevara interrogates captured soldier, Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013

Death in the Sierra Maestra

A casualty, Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013


Target practice, Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013


Disarming, Sierra Maestra, Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013

more than a half century after Meneses’ photographs were taken they remain potent emotional artifacts; a force drawing dreams of subversion and the romance of political resistance into their orbit.  but if they capture a desire to overthrow oppression, they also offer a sobering guidepost by which to measure just how fundamentally the conditions of struggle have changed on the ground in the years between the revolutionary uprisings of the fifties and sixties and our fight for social justice today.  although we resist and organize, we engage the challenges of our time under the digital glare of space satellites, unmanned drones and surveillance cameras…those of us who would smash the state and dream of an anti-capitalist future for our children and planet long for the haven of a Sierra Maestra today.  no, the moments collected by Meneses’ careful eye are as much a reminder that history is more apt to crawl forward on its hands and knees than bound fearlessly into a future utopia with an “utter rupture…a grandiose break with history.”

the parents of today are the children of tomorrow.


Enrique Meneses 83, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013.

and then there is the noise.

Disclaimer: if an artist is on this set list it does not necessarily mean that they have passed away.  For a list of the dead referenced, represented or symbolized in this playlist, I will be adding information to the bottom of this post.

Musical References:


Sol Yuric, 87, January 18, 1925 – January 5, 2013 American author of cult classic, The Warriors.  From lung cancer.  I went back and watched this movie again for the first time in more than twenty years.  it is absolutely mesmerizing…looking at it today is like stepping into a time capsule.  shot in 1979, it captures that liminal moment just before hip hop and b-boy culture came rumbling out of the Bronx…a must, especially if you lived in New York during the 70s or early 80s.

Keith Ratliff, 32, American gun enthusiast, producer of the FPSRussia YouTube channel, shot.


If Enrique Meneses was the biggest discovery from the week of december 31 – january 6, the award for unintended irony goes, without a doubt, to Keith Ratliff, (1981 – January 3, 2012), a high-tech gun designer, distributor and manufacturer.  as many of you know by now, in addition to his community service in arming the population, Ratliffwas the producer of the internet’s most popular gun show: a youtube channel with something like four million subscribers called FPSRussia.  a redneck boy scouts wet dream that features the alter-ego of a snotty amerikan with a fake russian accent who blows shit up with the latest in high capacity firearms and an assortment of modified explosive gadgets.

anyway, depending on who you ask, Ratliff, who was found sitting at his desk with a single bullet hole in the back of his head, was either murdered in a business dispute or assassinated by agents of barack obama for his outspoken views on the second amendment.

I’ll have more to say about the second amendment in Part Two of Fuck the Butter…I mean, Never Mind the Butter…just give me the guns.

speaking of russians, we can say goodbye to Konstantin Kobets, 73, July 1939 — 31 December 2012, a soviet-era military commander

Konstantin Kobets

this pompous fuck (anyone who walks around with medals on their chest is, in my opinion, a pompous fuck) made the smooth transition from the soviet autocracy to boris yeltsin’s regime…helping him establish the russian armed forces for which he ultimately served as the defense minister.

on a more tender note, we lost Stephen Resnick, 74, October 24, 1938 – January 2, 2013, a lefty American economist from leukemia.


Resnick was actually a pretty damn good Marxist economist.  i read some of the work he did with Richard Wolf, particularly their book Knowledge and Class which helped me make the leap from Capital to understanding the value of ideological work and non-traditional forms of labor…sort of a more early theory of “immaterial labor” than that put forth by Hardt and Negri…hats off to you Mr. Resnick!

Ahhh, yes…and then there is that ever so American of American darlings, Miss Patti Page, 85, November 8, 1927 – January 1, 2013,singer of such magnificent smash hit blockbusters as, “Most People Get Married” and “How Much Is That Doggy in the Window”…yes, this woman, ladies and gentlemen, sold over 100 million records and was the number one singing female artist of the 1950s…sorry Ella.

archive patti page 020113

how does she get her hands to stay like that anyway? is that a white gang symbol from the fifties? it’s kind of creepy.

Finally, definitely worth mentioning, is the fact that the world lost two people who participated in the “Quit India Movement”, a central chapter in India’s revolutionary anti-colonial struggle against the british.  the first of these was Annapurna Maharana, 96, November 3, 1917 – December 31,  who was an Odisha freedom fighter and women’s right activist:


and the other was Salik Lucknawi (16 December 1913 – 4 January 2013) an Urdu poet and journalist who spent over a year in prison for his commitment to non-violent resistance against the british empire.

Friends, why do you call my fatigue death
I tossed, turned and fell asleep