March 5, 2014 § 1 Comment
In yesterday’s APhotoEditor’s blog news, there was a post on “The Selfie heard all around the world,” written by photo industry blogger Paul Melcher. He makes very interesting and valid points about mobile devices, and their positioning in the marketplace in the photography world today. He describes how this one single image, had the power to invalidate the efforts of photographers hired by publications for their work on the red carpet-making their captures obsolete and redundant, not to mention, possibly irrelevant.
And yet as the focus and fear for professional photographers has been on cell phone captures, new tools are already being implemented beyond the cell device. In this issue of Aperture, photographer Susan Meiselas discusses in “Photography, Expanded,” that new avenues are constantly emerging, creating an infinite range of possibilities for storytelling.
There are many things to consider about this viral selfie. One is the fact that it was generated by Ellen-(although executed by Bradley Cooper), in an arena where no photographer could gain access. But even so, it was Ellen’s spontaneity and energy that created the fun-loving image. It is a Samsung phone, and although Samsung was a sponsor at the Oscar’s, it was Ellen’s idea to take the selfie unprompted by the company to further promote the product.
The most important thing to note about this picture is that as a consequence of its creation, Samsung has donated $1.5 million dollars to two charities of Ellen’s choice-The Humane Society, and St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital; and the beauty behind it, is that it was taken impromptu as in good-natured Ellen DeGeneres fun, resulting in funds donated for animals and children in need. Ellen has redefined the “selfie,” which is attention to oneself, and instead made its focus on millions of others. That is the power of photography at it’s best, no matter what the device.
February 14, 2014 § 1 Comment
They say that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. That statement could not be more true in so many ways. Growing up in IL, storms of the “PAX” magnitude were a common occurrence, and we didn’t give them names. When you name something, you give it an identity, and atmosphere has no identity. Sabertooth icicles and Sahara-like snow drifts, changed the landscape of our back yard. Snow management was par for the course, and we had well worn, non-ergonomic snow shovels. It was work, but the work was fun. I don’t recall my dad or us griping or lamenting about it. After clearing the snow, our focus was on our creative choices––considering our options in how we were going to play with it; shape it, craft it, use it, build it, lie in it.
It’s miraculous and mind boggling how one tiny snowflake can make such a staggering impact. How the power of one, multiplied by many, can produce such a paralyzing, breathtaking, silent scene.
I feel this temporary landscape is to be embraced in all it’s power and glory. There is such magnificence in something so almighty that tests your capability and your outlook. It’s a call to humility, to surrender––which is not the same thing as relinquishing. It’s the realization that you do not have control, that control is elusive and an illusion. There are forces so great that can challenge you time and time again, and with greater intensity in short order so that your only recourse is to renounce, and listen.
January 28, 2014 § 2 Comments
As of recent, there has been some hub bub about an Associated Press photojournalist who altered an image in Photoshop. As a result of his actions, he was fired. His employer the Associated Press, parted ways with Mr. Contreras due to his violation of the photojournalism ethical commandments “You do not add or subtract any element of an image in post processing. Ever.” Contreras had removed a video camera that appeared in the corner of his photograph; he felt its presence would dilute the gravity of the photo, which was of a Syrian opposition soldier taking cover under gunfire during a battle in Syria. Contreras has spent many years covering the war in Syria, and has no history of altering any of his photojournalist material. However, what is interesting to note in this situation is that Mr. Contreras, a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer, had remorse for his actions and turned himself in knowing full well what the consequences were. Moreover, having claimed he made a poor decision under pressure and duress, he makes no excuses for himself.
The most redeeming quality about Mr. Contreras, is that he took accountability for his actions. I find accountability to be one of the most diminishing traits in our society. Transparency should be normative and if you have something to hide, then maybe you’re part of a practice that needs reassessing.
Self-admonishment should be applauded. Perhaps since Contreras came forward with his infraction, maybe he should have gotten a slap on the wrist rather than the boot. But in a profession where manipulation has become standard practice-placing images that are true and remarkable into suspicion, I feel the AP made a firm and correct decision in standing by their manifesto and maintaining photojournalism integrity. It sets a strong example of their belief in documenting the truth in a world where the truth has become redefined. Words like “harvesting” has replaced slaughter, and “enhanced” has replaced “manipulation.
And what’s to me a sad state of affairs, is that truth is always more strange and fantastic than fiction. The 2006 doctoring of the image of an Israeli airstrike in Beirut, is inferior to the actual untouched image on the left. There is too much contrast, and what should be regarded as illegal use of the Photoshop stamp tool in the upper billowy regions of the smoke. The original is more believable, more subtle, and therefore more sinister.
The more we manipulate our environment, the more over-saturated, 3-D, and enhanced we make it, the more desensitized we become to our origins. Our thirst for over stimulation leaves us empty, unable to recognize any internal stirrings within. Our own magnificent imagination is being diluted by external stimuli to a degree that we don’t know what to do when left with silence. With Plain. With Simplicity. When manipulation becomes commonplace it promotes us to form our own narrative of the truth, thus removing us from all accountability for our actions. Truth becomes hearsay, and any standard for credibility is lost. If you don’t stand for something, you stand for nothing.
January 4, 2014 § 3 Comments
It was my intent to end the year with a post, but alas, it’s already 4 days into the New Year. New Year’s is an emotional event. The turning of the calendar year is about letting go and detachment. It’s about surrender and acceptance. It’s only fitting that the end of the year happens in winter- the most controversial of all the seasons. Whenever you ask anyone what’s their favorite season, I never hear “winter.” It’s usually one of the other three. Winter is “tolerated.” Of all the seasons, I find winter to be the most humbling, and at the same time magical, possessing an inexplicable beauty all it’s own; the whole snowflake thing just to mention one.
Winter is the season we don’t wish to accept, and few embrace it. We wish for summer, spring and fall to extend themselves, and we dread winter. We grouse about it, are perpetually focused on it’s removal, and even try and control it’s life span in hopes for an early spring by placing a prediction on a groundhog.
Embracing what is, at the time it’s given is a gift- for it’s all you have in the present moment. Life, circumstances and opportunities are fleeting. One minute it’s an abundance of snow-endless creative options, and the next moment the resource is gone.
Across the country, everyone is experiencing negative digit temperatures. For someone who gets cold when it’s 70 degrees out, I’m oddly comfortable in these frigid temperatures. My only explanation is that I have embraced the cold, rather than chosen to resist it. I have changed my mindset about what is given. It’s all about perception. A sunflower, dried and dead drooping like a rainhead shower head, never showed it’s face to the sky. But a child seeing only possibility, extracted plump seeds from it’s center to feed to the birds, and to plant again in the spring.
Winter is an illusion. As things appear to die, seemingly lost forever, I believe energy is momentarily dormant, transferred, and processed into another dimension, and new life ensues.
Lastly, I’d like to thank all of you who have taken valuable time out of your lives to read my posts. I hope they have served you in some way. Best wishes in the New Year.
December 12, 2013 § 2 Comments
My posts are few and far between. I’m working simultaneously on 2 projects, but I don’t post my process. I have sort of a “fight club” rule when it comes to my personal work. I don’t talk about them until they are completed. Therefore, I don’t post my progress. Since I am working on 2 at the same time, and they are in completely different locations, and completely unrelated, other things fall by the wayside. It’s unfortunate because I have posted many blogs in my head, always with the intention of making them live.
This has been a very challenging year for me in terms of loss. Ironically, both my projects, incorporate this very topic. No matter how prepared you think you might be, no matter if you know it’s coming, when it actually happens, there is no preparing you for the permanence that comes with the realization that something very precious, is gone from the material world. It’s inconceivable, and very difficult to accept.
I lost one of my dearest and closet friends, tragically, and abruptly. The gravity of this loss was not just for myself, but for the world, for the creative spirit that ran through this incredible individual who died with his music still in him. It was not his time. It was not time for either of them. We are at the mercy of something greater than ourselves and it’s important to acknowledge that if only to develop humility, and gratitude for everything that we experience at any waking moment. I think that I find photography forever magical because it is an expression of your thoughts. I took these photographs the morning after I learned of my friends death. This fresh dirt was the first thing I happened upon, and it was so fitting to see the contrast between the rich dark earth, seemingly representing the vast nothingness–the abyss of the unknown journey, juxtaposed with the uprising of new life; fresh, green, and vibrant. What seems to be death, is nurturing new life. To me, the scattered and faded pink rodenderon petals represents the transition of life next to the unfolding ferns, and the blanket of cool dark soil.
With the first snow, fall has come to an end. A fresh and sturdy pumpkin which I carved on my back porch in what seemed to be just days ago, seems to have rotted over night. Upon closer examination, it’s macabre spooky face was now covered in black mold and held such beauty as it crept into the crevices of my jack o’ lantern. I sadly chucked it over the fence, climing a few rungs to look down upon him buried in the autumn leaves. Sad, deteriorating, and transitioning into something microscopic. Leaving this world, into another-donating nutrients back to the earth from which it came.
Make no small plans. Live Large.
October 18, 2013 § 1 Comment
Pileated Woodpecker route 121.
I don’t watch the news. This is good, and bad. I’m probably not on the threshold of knowing what goes on in the world the minute it happens, but at the same time, if I expose myself to it, I am unable to filter the stream of hyper sensationalized stories that accost my senses. You can’t escape it. Televisions are in the airport terminal, in the Jiffy Lube when I’m getting the oil changed in my car, taxi cabs in Manhattan, and even when I’m in my dentist’s chair. Even if I’m able to silence the idiot box, the “crawl” itself, is nothing but high drama headlines. Recently when I was getting a crown replaced-as I lay there waiting for the Novocaine to kick in, I watched a so-called cooking show where the contestants job was to undermine their fellow chefs performance, rather than focusing on their own creation. Each contestant had a budget where they could purchase poor quality or inappropriate ingredients that they foisted on another peer making it impossible for them to turn out a successful dish. We have become addicted to drama.
Obvious, is easy. Subtlety, is not so easy. When I set out to do “Hit and Run,” I photographed it from many vantage points and approached it from several different views. I have the eviscerated footage that one associates with roadkill-endtrails and unidentifiable remains, carcasses mangled in ways that defy normal anatomy. I knew that this was not what I wanted, but it was necessary to approach it from all angles. Often times in the creative process something serendipitous happens and one takes on a different direction. For me this can only happen if I blanket my subject in many permutations and combinations. It’s essential for me to experience my subject matter it in all it’s various forms in order to know what to eliminate, and narrow down what to keep. It’s a process that is continually evolving through trial and error, hits and misses, until something congeals and my idea on how to apply a consistent theme becomes clarified. I have to be in it, in order to understand it, in order to convey it. And my aim is to try to bring a sense of grace to even the most difficult of subjects.
This beautiful Pileated woodpecker was flying across the road when it hit the windshield of a car that was driving too fast. My friend a wildlife rehabilitator, happened to witness the event as she was driving behind. She jumped out to resustitate the stunned bird, but she was not successful and felt its warmth leave it’s body, becoming still, then stony. She cried as she laid it to rest.
We are conditioned to shock value, to perfection, the unobtainable, and speed. I feel this cultivates a life of anguish, and we become anesthetized. I hope to bring beauty to imperfection, grace to difficult realities, and a sense of caution to how we view our world and our experience of it.
Thank you to Emma Kisiel of muybridgehorse.com.
August 14, 2013 § 3 Comments
Everyone has their own point of view. No one sees things the same way, and although that’s what makes life interesting, it can also make it frustrating. Getting out of your own head space in order to experience something through someone else’s point of view is either an exercise in futility, or an opportunity to transform and grow.
I’ve had my food choices edited, my personal preferences edited, aspects of my personality edited. All the ways in which I choose to express myself in the world, edited. Even if it’s my own personal creation, someone will feel compelled to alter it.
Our society is in constant flux and we’ve been conditioned to feed off of the change itself, rather than considering whether something actually needs it or not.
However, there are those times when your point of view is understood, not misconstrued, and represented in the way it was intended. Thank you to the London Sunday Times Magazine for featuring my project “Displaced” in this past Sunday’s Spectrum Magazine issue.
Yvette the guinea pig awaits her weigh-in at the Center for Avian and Exotic Medicine in New York City. She is just one of the patients photographed at the Center by Linda Kuo for her project Displaced. While pets such as guinea pigs and rabbits (top center) are perfectly welcome, the Center specialises in the exotic-and it has its work cut out in a city where unusual pets are increasingly popular. Recent patients include a red-eared slider turtle, pictured (top right) having its scales removed, a morning dove having its heartbeat checked (bottom right) and a uromastyx lizard (bottom centre) being kept warm under special lights after an operation. Every year almost half a million animals are imported into the US–legally–to meet the demand for exotic pets. Countless more are smuggled into the country as part of a $10bn-a-year international black market, second only to the illicit drug trade.