A Word On ¡No Mas!

It is Sunday and I just finished watching an ESPN special on the infamous “No Mas” fight of 1980, Roberto Duran Vs. Sugar Ray Leonard. First off the documentary was biased in Leonard’s favor. It was his point of view and the meeting at the end was for Leonard entirely. Roberto Duran got nothing out of it. But still a pretty interesting documentary.

The documentary did not get into he hispanic mindset, especially around the time of the controversy, the late 70’s and early 80’s. That was the time I was coming of age, I was in my late teens and taking stock of the world and my place in it. Just to have a living, hispanic figure to look up to was something. At that time our greatest sports hero was Roberto Clemente and he passed away in 1972. No one I knew was cheering for Leonard in my Brooklyn neighborhood.

Even before the first Leonard – Duran bout, Duran was already a boxing hero to me. Manos de Piedras, Hands Of Stone-Damn Right! He was a mean mother fucker to lots of people. But to us he was what it meant to be a man at that time in our lives, tough and ruthless. There was that fierce look in his eyes that most people saw. But I saw something else behind those eyes. I saw the soul of a misunderstood country boy, a jibaro, who wants to be popular, a hero, a lover, but knows he has to be ruthless and savage in order to survive and become something in order to live out his inner persona. I saw the soul of many a hispanic man in those eyes.

Just watching the short segments of him in the bar in his hometown; he is playing pool buying beers, shaking hands and joking with everyone and taking in the subdued adulation of the other patrons, shows him at his happiest. I think that is all he ever really wanted.

I don’t think that Duran was expecting to defend his title so quickly. It was only a few months. The man was in the middle of his much deserved celebrating in New York when he gets called back to Panama and is asked for a rematch. Now a smart man would have put off the fight. The smart thing to do was to get the celebrating out of your system, rest, and then get back down to fighting shape before even considering a rematch. But Leonard could not wait. His ego would not let him. Duran unfortunately was seduced by the $8 Million purse. He let money blind him and went into the ring not with the heart of a fighter but with the stomach of the newly indulged. He had to take drastic measure just to make weight.

In the eighth round of that infamous fight Duran realized his mistake after being frustrated by Leonard from the beginning of the bout. Now I am by no means saying Duran did the right thing, but I could see in the shaking of his head and the look in his eyes as he turned around and let Leonard take a few more blows to his back, the look that said, “I fucked up!”And then he lost heart. Personally I think the thing to do would have been to finish the fight, take the loss and then ask for a third bout. The smart Duran would have studied the fight film and figured out how to counteract Leonard’s style and build up and harden his heart against Leonard.

The psychology of any fighter is a mystery with countless levels of desire, regret, and ego, but to delve into the reasoning and the lightning quick decision that was ¡No Mas! is to hack your way through the cultural, societal and personal history that makes up the hispanic boxer. Roberto Duran will forever be the archetypal hispanic boxer and Champion.

¡Mi Campeón!

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A Word On ¡No Mas!

Time And The Photograph

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The author and his brothers and Mother at The Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, 1971

Physicists today will describe Time as an entropic process. The passage of time and the direction of time, what some call Time’s Arrow, is governed by chaos. In a closed system the particles that make up reality tend to become more and more disordered until at one point they are evenly spread out across a given space. This process is how we can tell Time is passing. A macro example of this would be my son’s room. The less energy I put in telling Isaac to clean his room the more disorganized his clothes become until eventually (I imagine) they would evenly cover all the surface of his space. In order for his room to become less messy and chaotic (i.e. less entropic) I would have to put energy into the room system by physically picking up and folding and putting away his clothes.

Sorry Isaac, that is not going to happen. Clean your room! I am busy with a project scanning and preserving my Mom and Dad’s family photographs. Pictures of my Mom and Dad and me and my brothers as kids, pictures of my Mom and Dad and Uncles and Aunts and Grandparents before we kids were around. Pictures of my Dad in Korea!

If you think about it, a photograph is a slice of time where we are able to stop (or at least greatly slow down) the process of entropy. The light energy in the form of a photograph is brought forward. In a sense, it is taken out of the flow of time and brought forward, hardly changed to give one a sense of the past. This is the value and true essence of a photograph.

I think Stephen Shore understood this very well. I am sure lots of other photographers understand this also, at least in an innate sense. But Shore, in his Uncommon Places series really tried to make “dated” images. He was not trying to make that cliche of a “timeless” image. He very deliberately includes cars and signs as markers of time. So the idea behind this post isn’t exactly original but it still bears repeating and in this case explicitly. Okay, off to rummage among my parents boxes of photos!

 

Time And The Photograph

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New York, 5/18/2016

This blog has been a little quiet. Sometimes the writing bug carries me away and sometimes the photo bug draws me out into the world. As you can guess I have been bitten by the heliographic creepy crawly and I have been posting random images, some old and some new on a tumblr titled “Once Was Here”.

It looks like some foul weather come my way on the weekend. You might see a posting or two shortly.

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New Photography From Japan

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Images by Mayumi Hosokura (left) and Hiroshi Takizawa. Courtesy Miyako Yoshinaga Gallery

Japanese photography has been my photographic bailiwick for some years now. It evolved from a great interest in the work of Minor White and his school, in particular their folding in of zen philosophy into the work. The “Provoke” era photographers with their attempts at photographing things that were “beyond language” attracted me greatly. I have amassed a small collection of Japanese photobooks and histories. While not making me an expert it does give me some breadth knowledge with which to discuss this topic with some small amount of authority.

I was delighted to hear from Russet Lederman about her curated show at Miyako Yoshinaga Gallery; “New Photography From Japan”. It is a small show exhibiting a handful of images from five contemporary photographers from Japan. All of the photographers are young and just starting to make a splash in the Japanese photography scene. The images are all very concerned with “process”. Some, like Taisuke Koyama who uses a small, hand held scanner to scan the light coming from a second scanner, make the process the entire point of their work. The patterns produced are visually interesting only for a few minutes but bring up important questions about the physicality of digital photography. Kenta Kobayashi plays with photography as a social process, taking raw and acid colored images and distributing them to friends via social media. Photography as “Happy Hour”. Some of his images were eye catching I must admit. Hiroshi Takizawa plays with photography as sculpture. His images of cement surfaces printed and then twisted and framed highlights the fragility of photographs as objects.

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© Kenta Kobayashi

Daisuke Yokota and Mayumi Hosokura, use darkroom processes to enhance their erotic and atmospheric images. These images are visually arresting and to me, the best in the show. Yokota’s process achieves a beautiful degraded, almost, dare I say it, a more advanced form of the Provoke era’s Are, Bure, Boke aesthetic.  Hosokura’s use of false colors gives her images of androgynous individuals a heightened sense of other worldliness.

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© Daisuke Yokota

It’s a shame that this show is so limited. They are many talented and young Japanese photographers at work presently. Photographers such as Yuji Hamada, Wataru Yamamoto, Mika Ninagawa, Yusuke Yamatani that show a greater range of concerns. And some slightly older photographers who have a special world view, Masao Yamamoto, Mikiko Hara are but two of these little known (outside Japan) but great photographers. An expanded show at a larger venue would certainly be warranted and a treat.

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© Yuji Hamada, Pulsar

Note: Shortly after posting this I remembered this set of interviews from Amana Art Photo. These four are really interesting young photographers. I mentioned two of them above.

New Photography From Japan