Take crummy photos, win swell prizes …

There’s something about the newspaper’s mailbox that attracts large quantities of unsolicited photographic weirdness.

It seems as if everybody out there with a camera has taken to heart the old maxim “One picture is worth a thousand words.”

Therefore, a dozen or so photographs – in or out of focus – ought to be worth at least a half page in The Reporter along with the undying admiration of the newspaper’s photo staff.

The great majority of the truly strange photographs that arrive on our doorstep seem to come from musical ensembles and regional theatrical groups.

The musicians – all of whom claim to be working with “a professional photographer” – usually submit an unfocused photo of four or five drunk guys leaning on each other in a dimly lit tavern. Sometimes they remember to include a battered guitar or soggy tambourine in the shot to give it that authentic rock ‘n’ roll flavor.

Skulls, unidentifiable auto parts and the occasional pit bull terrier also appear, although focus and lighting are frequently so fresh and creative that it’s impossible to tell the difference between the pit bull and the transmission from a ’72 Pontiac.

One of the most intriguing photos the newsroom ever received, however, came from a local church. Their informational packet contained the photograph of a russet potato accompanied by brief quotation from the Gospel of St. Luke – “The hungry he has satisfied with good things, the rich sent empty away…” – if memory serves me.

Over the years, we’ve begun referring to such free, unfettered and exuberant works as “Photography Without Boundaries.”

These photos are much the same as spicy fried pork rinds – we aren’t sure why we like them, but we want more. We’ve become so enamored of this free-spirited work that we’ve decided to launch a “Photography Without Boundaries” contest for readers.

Do you have a really goofy, unfocused, poorly-composed, badly-exposed photograph that really doesn’t have anything to do with anything? Did you snap a photo of your Uncle Henry rubbing his bald spot with a dead octopus? Do you have a picture of the rock band you used to belong to – the one with the lime green leisure suits and the inflatable palm trees? How about that photo of your nephew Pugsley with his foot stuck in the electric ice cream maker?

Send us your very worst photos and you may win dinner for two at Vacaville’s popular Merchant & Main Grill and Bar. Remember, the worse the photo, the better your chances of winning a big ol’ dinner for you and one of your admirers. Plus, we’ll reprint your winning photo right here.

Photos can be color or black and white, in focus or out of focus, anywhere from postage stamp to poster size (please, no videos and no wall murals).

Remember, this is a family newspaper, so try to use a little restraint in your subject matter, OK?

Mail your weirdest photos to: Brian Hamlin, The Reporter, 916 Cotting Lane, Vacaville, CA. 95688.

Deadline for entries is 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 31. The winning photo – as judged by our team of photographic experts – will be published here on Sunday, Sept. 9.

(Employees of Merchant & Main, The Reporter and their families are not eligible.)

Originally published August 12, 2001

The time is Heinrich, the place is Luber

In a few short hours it will be January 2001 (really – I checked it out).

Most of you are probably trying to recall something memorable about the year 2000 and are failing miserably, unless you’re one of those folks who think a contested election involving a pair of frighteningly mediocre presidential candidates is a big deal.

Is there anything you can do to make 2001 more memorable than the previous ho-hum year?

Glad you asked…

If you want to kick your lifestyle into high gear next month and have memories that will undoubtedly follow you for the rest of your days, mark Jan. 10 on your calendar followed by the name Heinrich Luber.

Luber is the Swiss performance-installation artist who put the capital “P” in performance and he’s coming to San Francisco’s Exploratorium to, er, hover 15 feet in the air over a giant megaphone.

If you’ve never had an opportunity to observe a Swiss performance artist hovering in space over a huge megaphone before, this will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

If, on the other hand, you have previously seen an airborne Swiss performance artist floating over a monstrous megaphone, this will be twice-in-a-lifetime experience (sort of like that time you and your nephew, Pugsley, kept going back to see the giant, man-eating clam in Corpus Christi).

Either way, this is a great start for your new year.

Luber is appearing as part of The Exploratorium’s 2nd Wednesdays Arts Cafe program as a featured guest in “Aerovox: An Evening Filled with Visual and Auditory Creations Based on Air.”

Visual and auditory creations based on air? Hey, it doesn’t get any better than this, amigos…

According to The Exploratorium, Luber’s contribution to the evening will create “an eerie tableau vivant, both provocative and confounding …Luber literally, yet quite mysteriously, floats in air. He remains suspended for hours, all the while softly speaking into a giant 15-foot megaphone. The image and the reality defy the laws of gravity.”

Yes, this might even be cooler than The Exploratorium’s do-it-yourself autopsy program last fall…

Luber’s an internationally recognized specialist in the creation of things one simply doesn’t expect to see without a little pharmaceutical assistance.

A man with a message, the performance-installation artist has appeared everywhere from Cairo to Cleveland. Sometimes he makes his point by appearing with a stuffed fox or heron protruding from his mouth. At other times he’s attached to a gigantic, cartoon-like pair of hands. Sometimes he claps them. Sometimes he drags them along behind him and sometimes they talk.

At the height of his abilities, though, Luber is effortlessly floating 15 feet in the air while murmuring into a gigantic megaphone.

And you thought art was dead…

Originally published December 31, 2000