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Between the rise of Chance the Rapper and a continuing epidemic of gun violence, Chicago's West Side has been a regular feature on blogs of all stripes lately. But director Eric K. Yue captures a different kind of stardom in his short on basketball playing Chicago high schooler Sire, who treats the camera to a blend of natural charisma and self-promoting ego.

The film is part of "Tribute," a collaboration between Dazed & Confused and Mainline films focusing on the state of youth and we are already curious to see more. Read an interview with the director at DazedDigital.com.

There's been a buzz around the massive archive of Alan Lomax recordings that were recently made available online. The NEA-funded CulturalEquity.org now hosts over 17,000 downloadable field recordings made by Lomax during over 60 years of research and documentary work on American folk music. This independent archive is distinct from the collection of recordings Lomax made for the Library of Congress in the '30s and '40s. Folk junkies, open culture advocates, and Lomax-ophiles, go and knock yourself out. But while you're at it, dig into the videos, too. Yes, Lomax and his team shot film—sometimes with multiple camera angles—of folk and gospel performances everywhere from Appalachia to New Orleans in the '70s and '80s. We've culled a few of our favorites below, but trust us, we've just scratched the surface of this treasure trove.  

Browse and view Alan Lomax videos at CulturalEquity.org.

For a new documentary profile, Ghostly sent filmmaker Will Calcutt to Rochester, NY to spend some time with artist Andy Gilmore in his studio. Gilmore, a frequent Ghostly collaborator who has contributed cover art for albums from artists like Gold Panda (whose music happens to soundtrack the profile), also releases his own work through the label's in-house art division, Ghostly International Editions. In addition to prints and music packaging, Gilmore's geometric illustrations have appeared in the pages of Wired, The New York Times, and a long list of publications. Check out the profile, and some of Gilmore's work below.

Enlisting Werner Herzog to direct a short-film-length PSA for ShareATT on the topic of texting while driving and its effect on society was a stroke of brilliance. The director brings a weight and consequence to the tragic topic often absent from didatic or smarmy PSAs. His subjects, as always, are afforded a level of humanity and dignity that transcends the topic at hand. Herzog frames the issue as a grave miscalculation in our cosmic bargain. As one subject says, "It's life. You get one chance and you live with the choices you make." Choosing to text while operating a vehicle, if it isn't obvious from Herzog's short film, isn't just selfish and stupid; it's a crime against nature.

Lloyd Aéreo Boliviano, more commonly known as LAB, was Bolivia's oldest airline before it was ordered to close by the Bolivian government in 2007. Once a much larger operation, the airline and its dilapidated headquarters are now manned by a single employee.

Photographer Nick Ballon first came across LAB's strange story after noticing one of their disused buildings while waiting for a flight out of Bolivia. Instead of trying to track down whomever was left in charge with a series of emails and phone calls, he simply knocked on the closest door he could find. According to an interview at Creative Review, within minutes, he was speaking with the CEO about LAB's story.

Ballon's research, which falls under the larger umbrella of The LAB Project, has led to a book, a gallery show, and countless documents and photos on his LAB Project site.

Photos from The LAB Project will be on display at the KK Outlet in London for the entire month of August.

Bronia Stewart Babe Station, 2012 Hand printed C-type Archival print © Bronia Stewart Courtesy of the artist

Bronia Stewart's "Fresh Faced and Wild Eyed" photo series manages to convey ideas about camaraderie, friendship, and ambition in the context of the otherwise unsavory world of the phone sex industry. Her subjects, who work in various capacities at the London-based adult entertainment service Babestation, include both the male producers and the female performers.

At It's Nice That, Maisie Skidmore sees a grim duality of the Babestation workplace: the friendship between the male producers and the female actresses is professional and unthreatening, yet the context reminds us "how the media encourages the sexualization of women, in order to get ahead in a male-dominated work environment."

See more from the series at The Photographers' Gallery.

All images by Bronia Stewart. Babe Station, 2012. Hand printed C-type Archival print © Bronia Stewart. Courtesy of the artist.

By the end of the 1970s, after about a decade of releasing music, Syl Johnson hadn't had much commercial success. A few years later, after he had left the music industry and started a chain of seafood restaurants, he discovered that his soul records were the source of a huge number of uncleared samples on early 1990s hip-hop records. While Johnson eventually made a living from licensing fees, he still has roughly 85 pending lawsuits against labels, rappers, and producers for uncleared samples.

Filmmakers Robert Hatch-Miller, Puloma Basu, and Michael Slaboch just launched a Kickstarter campaign to finish a new documentary about Syl Johnson's odd trajectory from music to seafood and back featuring awesome archival performance footage from his appearances on Soul Train, interviews with Ken Shipley from Johnson's new label Numero Group, and Syl's family and former bandmates.

Nothing Major Editor John Dugan emailed co-producer of the doc Michael Slaboch for more intel.

For those not familiar, who is Syl Johnson? Where would we know his music from? 
Syl's biggest hit was in 1975 when he went to #7 on the R&B chart with "Take Me To The River."  But as of late you've probably heard his music being sampled by artists such as Jay-Z and Kanye West, Wu-Tang Clan, Kid Rock, and hundreds of other artists.

What inspired you and Rob to make the doc and how long has it taken?
I've been working/collaborating with Syl since 2008 due to my affiliation with The Numero Group. We started shooting footage here in Chicago leading up to the very first Eccentric Soul Revue we produced in April 2009 at the Park West in Chicago. The rehearsals for that particular show where we made Syl learn all of these tunes he had never performed on stage before was when I first really noticed how fun, charming, and crazy Syl is in person and on camera. Since the show was such a success we took it on the road later that year, and I invited Rob to join Syl and I as we did a interviews at WFMU and WNYC. It was Rob that really planted the proverbial seed with Syl about making a film about him and his remarkable life, and we've been shooting on and off ever since.  

What kind of footage are you getting?
We've got about 50 hours of verité-style footage of everything from Syl gardening, to him talking to The New York Times, to life on the road, to just hanging out and being Syl.

Do you have much vintage period stuff to work with? Was that hard to find?
There's not much, unfortunately. We had to pay for the Soul Train footage, and he was on another episode as well which they can't seem to find in their archive. Beyond that, there's some amazing footage from 1975 and a few other odds and ends. But all in all, not much was filmed.

How does gardening figure in to the Syl Johnson story?
Syl has an amazing garden and he really seems to enjoy gardening all day in the summer. He shares organic vegetables with everyone in the neighborhood and really takes care of himself by eating healthy, juicing, and staying fit at 77 years old!

Where do you see this documentary going? Being viewed?
Our goal is to get into film festivals next year and hopefully get some distribution for theatrical, VOD, streaming, downloads, etc.

The editing can be the really tough part of a doc, making a compelling story out of ton of material and having to cut out detours that don't contribute to the central themes. Has that been tough to do? Or has it come naturally? 
A huge portion of this Kickstarter is going towards hiring an editor who can put this all into a compelling story. The elements are there for the most part, we need to shoot some more interviews, but for the most part the bulk of it has been done and some fresh eyes and ears will really bring it together. That's been the hardest part. Rob has done most of the editing and we've had a couple of other people and awesome volunteers log all of the footage so that we can pass it off in the most professional way possible to whomever ends up editing this amazing story. 

Check out the Syl Johnson: Any Way The Wind Blows trailer below, and back the project for a digital download of the film, admission to a private rough-cut screening, or a T-shirt designed by Jess Rotter at the bottom of the post. 

A few years ago Alyse Emdur found a photo of herself as a child posing in front of a mural of a beach with her two siblings. When she asked about the photo, her parents explained it was taken in a prison lobby during a family visit to see her then-incarcerated brother. After some research she found that these backdrop murals are actually a common practice for prisons, and in many cases are even painted by talented inmates.

The logic for prisons is that limiting photography to what's essentially an impromptu portrait studio protects potentially sensitive images of the prison's structure from being shared, while still allowing families to snap photos together that don't necessarily reveal that one member of the family is currently incarcerated.

When Emdur asked prisons for access to photograph a series of the backdrops for her book, almost every location denied her request. So instead of taking the photos herself, she collected images by exchanging letters directly with inmates asking if they'd share any family photos, and she eventually received 16 binders worth. 

Head over to BLDGBlog to read an interview with Alyse Emdur about the project. Alyse Emdur's book, Prison Landscapes, is available now. 

The MOCAtv web series "The Art of Punk" we told you about is underway and the first installment on Black Flag and Raymond Pettibon is up. Pettibon's album art and logo were key bits of iconography for his brother Greg Ginn's hardcore act in the '80s. Pettibon's often captioned, often disturbing hand-drawn black and white images undercut the return to a golden age that the Reagan years promised mainstream America. Pettibon's work also turned up on Minutemen albums, and later Sonic Youth's major label record Goo. As great and lasting as Pettibon's work (he also named the band, we learn) has been on American punks, his Black Flag logo remains a masterpiece of underground artwork, expressing an attitude in a visual code that's both rebellious, mysterious, and incredibly powerful. The video features Keith Morris, Henry Rollins, and Flea as well as Pettibon himself talking about the Black Flag band name, logo, flyers, and album art.

Bryan Ray Turcotte, founder of Kill Your Idols which published the authoritative volume on punk flyers, Fucked Up + Photocopied, has collaborated with Los Angeles MOCA for a new web series called "The Art of Punk." The episodes feature interviews with Raymond Pettibon, who created the bars logo and album cover art for his brother Greg Ginn's band Black Flag, as well as punk luminaries Flea, Henry Rollins, Jello Biafra, Keith Morris, and more.

The three-part series begins with Black Flag on June 11, but in the meantime check out the trailer below to see Flea on the toilet talking about art and action coming together, as well as details about the L.A. premiere at MOCA this Thursday, June 6.