Change for Chicago : West Side School for the Desperate Takes A Bow


Chicago’s West Side School for the Desperate, a poetry collective living and working together in Logan Square for the last 2 years, hosted their final show Saturday April 13.  Lease issues and the collective’s need to grow in new directions mean they’re closing up shop and moving on.

Its been amazing to watch the regularly-attending open-mic poets grow since I’ve been photographing (& occasionally reading) at the Bad News Bible Church monthly event … All performances at that show were energized by an audience willing to play ‘net’ for every new poetic acrobat – every poet, musician, lyricist, or other experiment here surfed the crowd, at least in spirit.



Creative community for the sake of community is a sacred space. WSSD gave Chicago this for 2 years. I don’t think anything’s gonna come along very soon to take its place.

Photo gallery for the last installment of Bad News Bible Church over here.

Matte Braidic’s Faceburgh

“The face is what one goes by, generally.” ~ Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass


untitled (faceburgh photo) - matte braidic 2012


Matte sits at sidewalk coffee shop tables with his dog and takes pictures of people. Later he crops them, adds a watermark, and uploads them to Facebook. To a portfolio page he’s created.

He lives in Pittsburgh. The name Faceburgh made sense. A friend of his designed the logo using Facebook’s font and Steeler’s colors. He watermarks each photo with it.

Matte used to just people watch. Then he got a DSLR camera. He challenged himself to take a thousand pictures, to get better at taking pictures. He took pictures of what he liked looking at. People.



untitled (faceburgh photo) - matte braidic 2012


If you haven’t spent time in Pittsburgh, its a peculiar small-town city made of neighborhoods. Each its own little world. Oakland, college & frat kids & sometimes hippies; Squirrel Hill is jewish with good middle class families, the kids busy not getting into trouble; East Liberty’s working class black vitality; Shadyside is kinda gay and has had a little work done; Bloomfield, mixes Italian with southeast Asian immigrants and yinzers; you can buy Pierogies from the Russian Orthodox church in the South Side flats and Polish Hill is, well, Polish old ladies and also hipsters drinking their favorite cheap beer at Gooski’s, etcetera, etcetera.

I lived in Pittsburgh for eight years. Now I watch that city’s days pass from my perch in Chicago. Facebook sends me invites for nights at the Shadow Lounge and Brillobox. Twitter snapshots the gorgeous profile those hills and rivers give as friends head to and from work, or go out on the town.

Matte’s Faceburgh project windows me into the places where I used to wait, write, read, think, do laundry, coffee, live. I play detective games in my head. Here’s the South Side, that must be in front of the Beehive, check out the cobblestones behind that guy. Ah, that’s where all the buses line up in Oakland, that’s a lot of students. This feels like Bloomfield’s afternoon light, in front of the Crazy Mocha. The same Crazy Mocha where Melissa posted that someone collapsed from a heroin OD out front yesterday. Yeah, that’s my small town concern showing. That’s how place weaves itself into you even though you’re half asleep, chasing ideas boys the next cup of coffee poem performance or opportunity to show your work.



untitled (faceburgh photo) - matte braidic 2012


“He could almost hear these faces telling them why the existed, why they’d been saved. Can there be anything more profound, more satisfying, more curious, Galip thought, than a photograph that captures the expression on a person’s face?” ~ Orhan Pamuk, The Black Book

When browsing through the photo galleries on Facebook, I read expressions. How do his subjects connect to him through the lens? What argument, if any, do they make with being photographed?

Every time I consider Matte’s photos, I think about our society and the culture of surveillance. Perhaps we don’t get pissed at surveillance because we have already consented to it, or because we can’t see the cameras. Or because the public behavior of photographing strangers is ‘for our own good’, ‘for our safety’.

Some of Matte’s subjects flip him off, make some other gesture of ‘opting out’. He takes the picture anyway. Legally, he’s permitted. We don’t own the rights to our own faces. We don’t own the rights to other people’s point of view, of us. Perhaps that’s the button Matte hits with some of his subjects, when they react by confronting him. He reminds them of what they are vulnerable to – the unknown vision of themselves had by the Other behind the camera.



untitled (faceburgh photo) - matte braidic 2012


His tagline is “Our history of Pittsburgh, one face at a time.” Place as setting for all the stories written in the hearts of those who live there. Place as third character in any paired relationship.

The interactivity of his process, inviting audience through the social media portal, invites a cynical yawn but is, simultaneously, effective. Matte needed to select a small group of photos for possible print publication. He did so by inviting Facebook friends to vote. As I browsed through, making my picks, I got to see who amongst my peers shared my likes. Curiously, I shared the most likes with another woman who had left Pittsburgh a few years ago (shout out to Mo Modono).

I’ll leave you with the Facebook album view of Matte’s most recent photographs. And, of course, the link.



untitled (faceburgh gallery - Facebook view)


Matte Braidic’s Faceburgh :

this is how they wait

how they wait


March 16 2012 somewhere around 5:30 pm a pedestrian went under the wheels of a metra express train. Delays were for 75 to 150 minutes. People at Des Plaines station were frantically calling for cabs or family members to pick them up, or trying to figure out buses. I started walking, to process a long day at work.

I headed towards the next station. I passed this metra train, waiting, in the dark.

Only after I started taking pictures did I realize the train was full of people. Later, when it finally moved, I discovered a second train was parked behind the one I had been photographing.

Link through to the set on Flickr

lost in translation

In the world of computers, the user receives information presented in a way that fits the user’s ordinary senses. When that information-presentation breaks down, the computer is ‘broken’.  Failure breaks the film, the suspension of disbelief, that users have to have when they rely on computers to conduct their business and personal lives.


lost in translation : artefacted stream of CSI:NY

lost in translation : artefacted stream of CSI:NY

Signal : the information stream. We rely on our senses to present good ‘signal’, or a reliable stream of information, to our brains. Our nervous system carries signal; then our brain decodes it, re-presenting the information we use to walk, talk, orient ourselves in space, create memory, and more.

Part of my affinity for working with digital media comes from my interest in signal and its translation, a process we rely on every day without being aware of, for the most part.


lost in translation : artefacted stream of CSI:NY
lost in translation : artefacted stream of CSI:NY

The computer user’s ignorance of the underlying process … Well, do we really need to understand the process of combustion and the machinery that harnesses it in order to drive our cars? We have to remember to get the oil changed, no matter if we understand how the failure to change the oil will break the car.

These screenshots were taken of broken stream of the television show CSI : NY. The premise of each of the CSI shows fascinates me, in part because they are driven by the authority of the evidence, or, the examination of material reality.  Authority, trust, questions about what is real, representations of reality; the narrative of the episode about a seemingly paranoid young woman whose murder proves she was really on to something. The signal bled all over my screen. The results? Beautiful.


lost in translation

lost in translation : artefacted stream of CSI:NY