The Digest – February 10th, 2013

©Maika Elan – via [LENSCRATCH]

Wayne is working on the layout for Issue 6. This is when it gets fun because at this point I don’t really know what the issue is going to look like. I know all of the pieces but never really know how they’re going to come together. I trust my collaborators and let them do their thing. Sure, I give my input when asked but for the most part it’s been smooth sailing for five issues. That’s why I have so much fun with the process. Like they say, work with people smarter than yourself.

I’ll have two more episodes of the podcast up in the next few weeks. I think it’s safe to assume not to expect them to arrive on a regular schedule. I mean, does it matter that much? I say no.

I still get these emails from Percolate which are suppose to show you what links are hot from your friends on Twitter, etc. I normally don’t find that much of interest but I’m too lazy to unsubscribe. This morning though I saw an article titled “The End of the Web, Search, and Computer as We Know It” from Wired. Typical hyperbole from a tech publication but I clicked anyway. It was an opinion piece by David Gelernter, a professor of computer science from Yale.  

 Until now, the web has been space-based, like a magazine stand; we use spatial terms such as “second from the top on the far left” to identify a particular magazine. A diary, on the other hand, is time-based: One dimension of space has been borrowed to represent time, so we use temporal terms like “Thursday’s entry” or “everything from last spring” to identify entries.

Time as a metaphor may seem obvious now. Especially because it’s natural for us to see our lives as stories, organized by time.

Yet it took us more than 20 years in computing to get here. The field has finally moved from conserving resources ingeniously to squandering them creatively. In this new environment, we can focus on the best way — instead of the cheapest, most conservative way — for the internet to work.

And today, the most important function of the internet is to deliver the latest information, to tell us what’s happening right now. That’s why so many time-based structures have emerged in the cybersphere: to satisfy the need for the newest data. Whether tweet or timeline, all are time-ordered streams designed to tell you what’s new.

Of course, we can still browse or search into the past: Time moves forwards and backwards in the cybersphere. Any information object can be added at  “now,” and flows steadily backwards — like a twig dropped in a brook — into the past. You can drop files, messages, and conventional websites (those will appear as static, single elements) into the stream, which acts as a content-searchable cloud file system.

But what happens if we merge all those blogs, feeds, chatstreams, and so forth? By adding together every timestream on the net — including the private lifestreams that are just beginning to emerge — into a single flood of data, we get the worldstream: a way to picture the cybersphere as a whole.

Is our perception of time evolving or changing in the digital age? I think about that often. I don’t think we’re very savvy in the way they use the stream. These social media companies are making it as easy as possible to share to the stream. Just press a button a few times a day! I’m certainly guilty of that and when used correctly I think it’s precisely what we should be doing. There’s no need to make sharing complicated, but I also think we need to step back and look at all of those things we’re sharing and figure out why and if they’re all really that relevant.

The Digest is me stepping back and looking at what I’ve shared. I’m continually trying to sharpen my editing skills so I won’t waste your time.

©Dina Litovsky‘Look Inside Fashion Week: Lacy and Lecherous [The Cut]

Consent and Privacy

At the beginning of the week Joerg Colberg and Blake Andrews, each published articles about issues I think we’re going to be sorting out for years to come. First, Joerg took on the paparazzi, but it’s about much more than that.

We might want to re-introduce the idea of photography and ethics (see, again,this article). It might be perfectly legal for paparazzi to do whatever they do. In the United States, the First Amendment offers legal protection. But argue as you may over it, the First Amendment is a legal construct, an abstract principle. It’s very hard to see why we should allow other humans to be abused and maltreated just because we want to endorse the most extreme interpretation of an abstract principle. There is no ethics in that.

The First Amendment might give photographers the right to act as bullies, but that doesn’t mean we have to buy the photographs to use them in our magazines or on our websites. And it also doesn’t mean we have to buy those magazines or frequent those websites.

Photographs like the one I am not showing here – I’m sure you can find it easily online – can, no: should offer us reason to pause. Is this how we want young women to be treated? Is this how we want anyone to be treated? Peel away the First-Amendment arguments, and you will find a large amount of macho posturing. Do we want to base our decision on what is acceptable photography on macho posturing, on the idea that physical and psychological might make photographic right?

This relates to all candid photography made in public spaces. It’s a tricky situation. My feeling is that there are going to be more and more lawsuits in the United States about candid photographs published on the internet. We need to look at how we photograph in public and figure out what’s acceptable and what’s over the line. Within the street photography community, there’s a certain amount of aggressiveness that I think crosses the line. It’s generally from younger males that are still searching for their identity as photographers.

Of course Bruce Gilden generally comes up in these conversations and I think questioning his approach is legitimate. For one, I don’t think his street work is all that interesting, but that’s just me. I guess I prefer a more observational approach. For me, it leads to more interesting photographs. Having spent years in HCSP, I know the arguments and have grown weary of them over the years.

I hope there’s a reasonable balance between freedom of expression and our growing privacy concerns. I doubt it though. We live in paranoid times and I think it’s going to get worse unfortunately. If we had a week we could talk about government surveillance and drones but lets stick to photography for now.

Second, Blake published a correspondence with Michael Northrup about the book Michael created on his ex-wife.

I have 10 years of images of Pam, taken over 20 years ago and want to do a book on her.  All the images were taken with her knowledge, with her understanding that they’d be exhibited, none are demeaning or defaming. I have shown her in the past with no problem. She has been photographed by other photographers nude and semi nude and never complained about their usage. She was published with total frontal nudity with her name in the title, by a famous international photographer and published in one of his major books and shown throughout his representative galleries. He is a world renowned teacher, a highly ethical man, a great artist photographer and greatly respected.  He did not even ask for her permission. He assumed there was an unquestionable understanding between them both in the very fact that she “posed” for him. This is the understanding that I have had in all my years in this medium and the understanding that all my peers have shared. She never questioned or sought compensation or demanded the removal of that image of her from this photographers usage.  But after 20 years of showing my images of her, she now says she no longer wants me to show those images.

Unless she can show just cause for not publishing her then I would feel it not immoral for me to use those photos. They are mine. They are my creation. She is not literally in those photos, only her likeness. After all, a photograph is just a 2 dimensional plane with a map of varying shades and colors designed to evoke something in its viewing or mimic some reality. Pam has no rights to that object as it is not her property. It is my creation entirely. Only her likeness is suggested and only seen as such by applying a projected interpretation to that 2 dimensional surface. So if I’m expected to sit on all those images and throw them under the bed, denying me my progress in my field, my communicating with my peers, my income, my rights to this work?…. I say no way Jose and will continue to work towards publishing this work.  fini.

 Jin Zhu says “no = the end:” 

It is a question of whether you override someone’s stated preferences. If they have explicitly refused permission, does it make any sense to make a case for implicit consent? People have the right to change their minds at any time, and it makes me a bit angry that any of us still have such a shaky understanding of this. To me, this argument starts sounding like the argument that as long as a person initially agreed to have sex with you in the first place, every other “no” given in the process of the act doesn’t count. It isn’t rape, it isn’t wrong if they said yes to begin with, right? Well, yes it is. It’s a grey area that isn’t actually grey at all. It’s very clear. No = the end. What is this hemming and hawing over whether it’s fair? It would be fair to respect someone’s wishes.

Wayne shared a quote from Papageorge that resonated: 

It’s always been puzzling to me that capacious minds like Sontag’s, to say nothing of those of almost every art historian, look at a photograph and see not a picture, but the literal world held in their palm. With that, they’re revealing themselves to be no more sophisticated than the proverbial tribesman who believes that a photograph made of him steals a piece of his soul. There seems to be no cure for this universal form of innocence, or ignorance, but it is, to put it mildly, frustrating to spend years working as a photographer and writer about photography and realise that this misunderstanding is as prevalent today as it was the day I first saw those Cartier-Bresson photographs—and recognised them as picture-poems.”

Northrup shouldn’t have published the photographs. I mean, how important are they? Are they going to change the conversation? Don’t get me wrong. From what I’ve seen they’re amazing photographs. Brilliant. But I wonder, why can’t some art be kept for ourselves and maybe a small group of people? If the work is archived properly, why not let future historians sort it all out?

These are important issues and I look forward to hearing other opinons.

©Kitra Cahana – from ‘Teens’

Links of Note

DIS Magazine’s “subversive” stock photography:

A lot of stock photography is comprised of empty images that avoid explicitly saying anything so that can be slotted into any context. Our images will be less clear about what the message is supposed to be,” Chase explained, adding that he’s aiming to “flood” Google Images with these off-kilter photographs.

“Why it’s time for galleries to dump the jargon.” Be mindful of the source. 

You might, for example, wonder why they seem to think it’s better to use the word “notion” than “idea”, or the word “narrative” than “story”, or the word “interrogate” than “ask”. You might wonder why every piece of art they write about seems to “subvert” something, or “disrupt” something, or “deconstruct” something, and why what it seems to “subvert” or “disrupt” often seems to be “traditional hierarchies”. You might wonder what those “traditional hierarchies” were. You might, for example, want to ask if they were the “hierarchies” of a world where art is bought by hedge funders as an investment, and a brand. But if you looked at the art that was meant to be “subverting traditional hierarchies”, or “interrogating capitalism”, you might wonder why, if the artist hated capitalism so much, the work was so often for sale.

Nathan Jurgenson on snapchat:

There’s always tension between experience-for-itself and experience-for-documentation, but social media have brought that strain to its breaking point. Temporary photography is in part a response to social-media users’ feeling saddled with the distraction of documentary vision. It rejects the burden of creating durable proof that you are here and you did that. And because temporary photographs are not made to be collected or archived, they are elusive, resisting other museal gestures of systemization and taxonomization, the modern impulse to classify life according to rubrics. By leaving the present where you found it, temporary photographs feel more like life and less like its collection.

The photograph, for all its promised immortality, always hinted at death. This was central to Roland Barthes’s analysis in Camera Lucida, that the enduring image “produces Death while trying to preserve life.” Documenting the present as a future past, as conventional photographs do, asserts the facts of change, impermanence, and mortality. The temporary photograph does the opposite: It interrupts the traditional photographic fixation of the present as impending history by positing a present moment that’s not concerned with the past or the future. As such, the temporary photograph is necessarily less sentimental and nostalgic. By being quick, the temporary photograph is a tiny protest against time.

©Maja Daniels‘The River Valley Vernacular’ [timemachine Issue 7]

MoMA’s First Poet Laureate, Kenneth Goldsmith:”

All of which makes me think that for writers, careers and canons won’t be established in traditional ways. Literary works—and careers—might function the same way that memes do today on the web, spreading like wildfire for a short period, often unsigned and un-authored, only to be supplanted by the next ripple. While the author won’t die, we might begin to view authorship in a more conceptual way: perhaps the best authors of the future will be ones who can write the best programs with which to manipulate, parse and distribute language-based practices.

And then:

We might be witnessing an extraordinarily rare, even if minor, countertrend to photography’s increasing abundance — a sort of photographic population control. In this way, the rise of self-deleting photographs might be as much about reinstating the importance of nontemporary photos as it the enactment of photographic disposability.

Frank Ocean on the purpose of art:

Art’s everything we hope life would be, a lot of times,” Ocean said to me as we sat outside the BMW repair shop in North Hollywood, speaking to each other in the dark. “That’s what I get from it. And that’s what I’ve tried to do. In the storytelling and the sonics and everything. That’s what I’ve tried to do, because I just think that’s the purpose of art. Push, you know?

Erik Kessels says “we are all involved in every moment.”

And now we see the pictures in a way that was never intended. We have the chance to look inside a private collection of private memories. And, in so doing, our memories, or ideas for Their memories, overlap, overwhelm and extend the existing memories in these images, these moments recorded on film … ‘What we photograph today can have continued meaning in a time and place somewhere else, to someone else. What we then find is that we are all involved in every moment. We are all somehow included in what happens to all of us. We are collectively having lives, memories and futures.’

©Marc Riboud – [Time LightBox]

Geoffrey Batchen on “Disseminating Photography:”

Picture a history of photography freed from the tyranny of the photograph. No longer confined to static objects or specific technologies, this history would instead engage the photographic image in all its various manifestations, wherever and in whatever form they have appeared. As a consequence, dissemination, rather than production, would become our study’s guiding logic. In taking this expanded view of its territory, the history of photography would at last fall into sync with its own story.

 Irina Rozovsky says: 

Garry Winogrand said something like, “If I know what a picture will look like before I take it, what’s the point of taking it?” I knew what he meant when I came to Israel — we’ve seen the media imagery of this place, the photo essays and news reports that try to identify the culprit and illustrate a one-sided storyline. But upon arriving, I realized that the story that appears linear from a safe distance is more complex than we can fathom. We think we “know” a place before we even arrive, but this kind of removed knowledge is simplified and uninvolved.

In regards to documentary, there are no obvious facts in this work. I am aiming to convey a sense of this place as it struck me — the aged, eruptive, powerful land, the clumsy layering of history, the occasional absurdity of human efforts, and the heartfulness behind it all. It is important that it is Israel, but somehow secondary, as the elements I stumbled on are not particular to this country or this geography, rather they are quite universal. It’s equally as much about the futile gestures of people in a riddled landscape that unveils a deeper conflict, one that’s not limited to geography, but that’s more a metaphysical conflict, a mythic struggle.

Liz Kuball on editing ‘California Vernacular:’ 

When I was faced with editing the series, I didn’t want to rely solely on my old blog archive to find photographs. I wasn’t sure, but I thought I might have more than just those images to choose from. And that turned out to be a big turning point for me. I spent weeks going through all the photographs I took between 2007 and 2012, and in the end, I found 225 contenders, many of which hadn’t been on my blog or website before. I knew at that point that I had enough to choose from, and that’s when I felt confident that I was truly done with California Vernacular.

©Daniel W Coburn – via [LENSCRATCH]


FASHION FILM from Matthew Frost on Vimeo.