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All hail me

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

In the last eighteen hours on flickr, it has been suggested that I am (A) god, (B) dead, or (C), a sentient webscript. Disappointingly, none have suggested that I am all of the above.

Update: I am also food.

SFMOMA apparently sucks donkey balls

Friday, August 8th, 2008

Thomas Hawk has pretty much just dissuaded me from ever visiting SF MOMA in the future:

Recently I blogged about my excitement regarding the San Francisco MOMA’s decision to begin allowing photography in their permanent collection after years of maintaining a closed no photography policy. Directly because of this change in policy, I decided to purchase a family membership in order to support the museum, both with my artistic energy and financially. I was excited to begin spending regular time exploring and documenting the museum.

Unfortunately, I should have known better than to really believe that the San Francisco MOMA was serious about opening up the art and architecture entrusted to them to the general public.

Thomas Hawk’s Digital Connection

Minor White: The Eye that Shapes

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

Minor White: The Eye That Shapes (Peter Bunnell)

Score! Been looking for a copy of this for ages.

Don’t ask me to tell you how much I paid for it. I bought it from the fourth-floor Moe’s sanctum sanctorum, where when you buy a book, they print you out an invoice, not a receipt. They also have a pretty hard time making change and zipping flies. Seriously, it’s a whole different universe of books. : )

Minor White is a photographer who really interests me, in part because he’s one of the greats of all time, in part because he’s a photographer who is strongly interested in the connection between photography and modes of religious experience, and in part because he is frequently identified as a “Zen” photographer, which I’m pretty sure is hogwash. (Based on everything I’ve read by and about him, he is defined far more by the I-Though modality of Western mysticism than he is by Zen, although he was certainly aware of Zen and had an interest in it.)

Anywho, this makes White interesting and an interesting problem, but finding primary or even secondary material on him can be a bit tricky, so I’m always happy when I my hands on more of the puzzle.

Librarything Entry

The Point Stays Free

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

The Point Stays Free

It isn’t easy for me to compose with the full frame. There are a lot of reasons for this. Some are basically ineluctable. My cameras don’t have 100% viewfinder coverage, and I wear glasses, meaning that it’s sometimes hard for me to see the entire viewfinder at once in the first place. I also shoot a lot of birds, and it’s very hard to fill a whole frame with a bird unless the bird is domesticated, taxidermied, or drugged. And when it comes to the black and white shooting I did for my class, I ran into trouble when I did fill the frame, because I was printing 35mm frames on 8×10 paper.

But some of my problems with full-frame composition have to do more with how I think and see than the physical and technological constraints placed on me by my body and my materials. I usually shoot handheld in a rapid-fire fashion, so that I can keep moving, avoid attracting attention from potential muggers, and maintain my flow-stateish condition of just seeing and shooting. Because of this, I’ve developed a habit of shooting to fill a comparatively small portion of the frame and then cropping rather severely in post-processing. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this — I’m not sympathetic to the anti-cropping purists — but it does create possible issues of resolution.

This image was a case in which I could tell immediately that it was important that I determine my composition ahead of time. There are many compositional elements, and the whole ensemble was required for the image to work. It was critical that I include everything in the frame, and because of the peculiar shape of the overall composition, and the physical dimensions involved, it was also critical that I make sure everything was already in its place at the moment of capture.

So, I took some extra time, even though it meant briefly obstructing this driveway. I’m glad I did, too, because the first several versions of this shot — taken from a whole different angle — were basically unusable. In fact, it was only after I lost my game of chicken with one of the cars trying to use the driveway that this angle occurred to me. : )

This is why we love Eleanor Holmes Norton

Friday, June 6th, 2008

via The Online Photographer

Thomas Hawk on brick and mortar stores

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

Thomas Hawk has a nice post about brick and mortar stores versus buying online. I’m one of those people who gets a mild warm and fuzzy feeling when buying locally, but it’s often either not economically viable, or else the moral value is spoiled by awful service. This last is a real issue in Berkeley, where we have a lot of stores that are staffed by really, incredibly knowledgeable, passionate people who are also utter asshats. I often have to weigh these qualities carefully before deciding whether to shop at one of the local establishments.

The Other Change of Hobbit is a good example of a place where the people behind the counter can sometimes be aggravating, but not all the time, and the specialized knowledge they have is just stunning. The staff of Comic Relief, on the other hand, almost invariably induce a desire to just kick them all in the groin and never read comics again. Games of Berkeley is often almost as bad. The eerie and unnerving but undoubtedly gifted staff of Crixa are a related case.

As for Looking Glass Photo — I’ve been shopping there pretty regularly lately for film-related stuff, and I sometimes buy bags there, because it’s worth paying a premium to be able to try them on first. They’re often very busy, and not super-efficient, but when you can get time with the staff, they’re very helpful. I will probably never, ever buy a camera there, though; just can’t justify it to my budget.

While I can understand how the whole “shop local” people might be disgruntled over the internet invading their jobs and space, the best way to compete and handle it is to truly offer superior service and support, not insult customers, provide bad service or give lip service responses.

Thomas Hawk’s Digital Connection: A Bad Service Experience at Tall’s Camera

Does Jesus want to ruin your wedding?

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

Last month, Thomas Hawk had an interesting post about a lawsuit between a lesbian couple and a pair of photographers who refused to shoot their commitment ceremony on religious grounds:

Earlier this week the commission found the photographers guilty of discrimination under New Mexico state anti-discrimination laws and ordered them to pay $6,000.

While there is no Federal statue that I am aware of providing legal protection to same sex couples, the state of New Mexico does have such a statue on their books. Apparently a Christian law firm is going to appeal the decision.

What do you think? Should the decision stand? Should a Christian photographer be required to shoot something that violates their personal religious beliefs? Is the New Mexico ruling a good verdict and one that protects the rights of same sex couples and helps them to avoid discrimination? How would you feel if the couple had refused to photograph a couple because they were black or too old or handicapped? Would that change your opinion on the decision?

It’s an interesting question. I cannot sympathize with religiously-based homophobia — as far as I can tell, it’s a clear case of canon being manipulated to provide cover for simple bigotry. [See bottom of post for slightly more detail.]

But we inhabit a pluralist democracy — or at least we’re supposed to — and that means that as a nation, we’re supposed to have broad tolerance for speech, even speech that is offensive or, in some cases, hateful. But is photography speech? More specifically, is wedding photography speech? I’m not entirely sure.

It would obviously be wrong to compel a homophobic fine art photographer to change the content of their art, just as it would be wrong to forbid a private homophobe from expressing their views. On the other extreme, it would equally obviously be wrong for a restaurant to refuse to serve a gay couple food. It would be inappropriate to forbid editorial homophobia (as in an opinion column, an editorial, or a piece of editorial photojournalism), but it would not also be inappropriate to push a homophobic agenda in simple journalistic reporting.

I’m not sure which of these cases wedding photography most fits. My first inclination is to say that the wedding photographer is providing a service, much as a restaurant or a mechanic or what have you, and that therefore to refuse to photograph a commitment ceremony is straightforward discrimination.

But wedding photography is considered the intellectual property of the photographer, and I can’t say that I think this is an incorrect stance on the copyright issue; this seems to suggest that at some level, wedding photography is a form of expression, such that the photographer has rights over the use of those images; surely that also means they have some rights over the creation of them?

And — as is often the case when dealing with a possible conflict of freedoms — it’s useful to consider flipping the offensiveness polarity — would/should a lesbian photographer who specialized in commitment ceremonies (if there aren’t some, there should be — I’m sure there’s a market, at least in some regions) be liable if she refused to shoot a wedding at a church with conservative views on gay marriage?

Yeah, in that case, I’d have to say that the same rules and precedents should apply.

The reason I thought about that post, by the way, is that — in the course of responding to a strictly technical question in the D40 group on flickr where I’m an admin, I came across this guy’s site, in which he explains that he will only shoot your wedding if you agree to these conditions:

*Do you give me freedom to exercise discernment, to the extent of deleting photos of inappropriately dressed people? If you want to know what constitutes “inappropriate”, email me or look through my photos for “acceptable” clothing. It’s hard enough for me to practice godliness while editing photos of women with their chests half-exposed. It’s even harder for me to send those images to your relatives, knowing that my photos grieve my God whom I love. Thank you for being understanding. [Matt 5:28]

*Do you have any intention of supporting flagrant drunkeness at your wedding? Alcohol is not evil, but I cannot support willful abuse of it. The nature of my photography is to make things look good, and drunkeness is not good. I recognize that you cannot prevent everyone from bringing his secret stash and then overindulging. This issue applies more to couples providing or approving an “open tab” at the bar. The bible warns that all drunkards and wild partiers will have their part in the lake of fire – it is a sympton of spiritual death. [1 Cor 6:9-10, Rev 21:8] I’m not joking, I’m scared for you if you’re fine with that.

*Do you intend to merge wordly-themed music with your Christ-centered reception? Do you intend to dance to lyrics that God will punish the unsaved artists for writing? Worldliness is defined by the Apostle John as “lusts of the flesh, lusts of the eyes, and the pride of life.” [1 John 5:15-16] Unfortunately, there goes most popular dance music. God says these things should not appear amogst His people even once in an approving way. Dancing is approving, and my photos represent a quiet approval.[Eph 5:3-5, 1 Pet 4:1-5]

If your heart says “Amen”, we’ll probably get on fine! Praise God!

This presents an interesting wrinkle, because this isn’t explicitly a refusal to serve certain groups (although it’s pretty obviously going to have that effect in practice), it’s a list of conditions required for providing services, and obviously the ability to set conditions is not something we can take away from service-providers. Indeed, “The nature of my photography is to make things look good, and drunkeness is not good,” is a point that I find totally unobjectionable. People expect their wedding photos to look good, and that’s a lot harder if everyone is so wasted they can’t stand straight.

But somewhere in there, a line is probably being crossed between the kinds of conditions that are legitimate and the kind that brings is into the realm of religious discrimination of the kind discussed above. Of course, it’s a different state, and a different case, and in any case there can’t possibly be such a shortage of qualified wedding photographers that this is really a practical problem for most people — but it does seem to add an interesting dimension to these issues.

[As promised, that slightly more detail]
I’m aware of the textual basis, but anyone who thinks that there is a single and/or plain reading of any scriptural text is tragically naive, and anyone who thinks that they know what that reading is guilty of the worst kind of pride — not the gay parade kind, the deadly sins kind. This is why the history of religion should be taught in schools — people need to know how our beliefs change over time, in order to have some perspective on the many contradictory teachings that are bandied about in the name of Jesus, Mohammad, and every other religious figure around. Incidentally, the history of science should be taught for similar reasons; a lot of folks who blithely dismiss religious viewpoints in favor of “science” have a similar lack of perspective about where their own beliefs come from.

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