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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Once Was Here

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Like many photographers I have lots of ideas swirling around in my head. I collect interesting sounding phrases and meditate on them. I try to get at the meanings of the words individually and then as a whole phrase. If I find it interesting enough it becomes a sort of model for my image making. And I work on several idea models at one time. There are a few idea models actively working away on my perception at this very moment! It gets hairy some times ;)…

There are a couple of idea models that I have been toying with for awhile. One is, “Private Compass”. Basically photographs that explicate the way I see the world. Another idea phrase currently active is, “Once Was Here”. I am not quite sure if I made this up or heard it somewhere, but it evokes both geography and history; nostalgia and evidence. The underlying structure is that Zen concept of looking at an object and seeing not only it, but it’s history; how it came to be, all the processes and beings and circumstances that caused it into being. I feel this conceptually most when I walk through City Parks and think of what the region would have looked like before people or before cities and also what will it be like after people, after abandonment. At these moments everyday critters become magical, little black birds are spirits and messengers from  the incorporeal realm much like they were to my Native American ancestors.

It is so easy now to make a technically good photograph. Have you seen those Apple ads touting, “Made with an iPhone 6”? A phone can make an image good enough to print full bleed in a major magazine. This is truly the age of the PhD photographer (Push here Dummy). Now more than ever the imagination, the mind behind the camera becomes of utmost importance. But hasn’t it always been this way? There is an Elliott Erwitt quote that goes something like this; “You do not take a picture with a camera, you take a picture with your mind”. So while this is not exactly a radical and new concept I think it has become  essential to anyone wanting to be creative with a camera today.

“Photography is a craft. Anyone can learn a craft with normal intelligence and application. To take it beyond the craft is something else. That’s when magic comes in. And I don’t know that there’s any explanation for that.” – Elliott Erwitt

Once Was Here