Category Archives: twitter

Women are beautiful

Something I’ve been thinking about for a while. I got some feedback to this tweet which was along the lines that this is a stupid idea because Street Photography is all about tropes and surface. While I agree with this characterization of Street Photography, those comments missed my point.

Certain tropes are damaging.

The pretty girls thing is one of them

From [internet photographer]

 Area Photo 201 Students All Take Pictures Of Same Homeless Guy

From The Onion

The homeless thing is another post but it’s a similar idea of objectification. With pretty girls, the nature of the objectification in the trope bothers me given how photography in public is going.

This isn’t to say that all photos of pretty girls are bad. Or that all street photography is bad. Or even that we should all stop taking photos of women in public.

It’s just that a lot of the pretty girl street photography I see falls into the technically competent photos of pretty things camp where because the subject is attractive, many people think the photo is good too. While this is a recipe for boring photos which score high on the interestingness scale, it also skirts into human zoo territory. Not a good look.

And it’s worth flagging that the male gaze is one of the tropes of the genre. Questioning this is important. Comparing approaches is important.* Looking and thinking about what works and what doesn’t and where the lines are is important. Most street photographers don’t want to get into the creepshot thing but I always get the feeling that there’s something lurking in there** and I think it’d be interesting to pull it out.

*I’m also actually interested in comparing how different photographers approach the same trope and one of the things we’ve semi-joked about on Hairy Beast is to create a photographic Aarne–Thompson.

**For example, looking at a selection of Women are Beautiful photos which doesn’t feature the most-famous images.

Doing a Women are Beautiful edit for multiple street photographers would hopefully show that there’s more to a good photo than just a pretty girl. Or they could show how difficult it is to do something constructive with the male gaze. I don’t know, I haven’t seen this proposed tumblr.

But I want to see the problematic tropes get called out more. It’s not a problem that a genre relies on tropes. It’s a problem that the tropes themselves are problems.

Not a “true” soccer fan

The World Cup starts this week and as Americans become more and more interested in it, we’re seeing more and more articles castigating how we’re* interested.** Some of the critiques are legit—for example the way we’ve appropriated European nomenclature without recognizing what it means—but a lot of them feel like generic hipster bandwagoning scorn of the “how dare we finally get into soccer” type. Most of these articles are laughable but one of the primary noted “problems” with American fandom really pisses me off.

*By “we,” I mean White America. Most of the articles neglect to see or fail to mention that there are millions of Americans who have been following soccer, and the World Cup, for decades on Univision. And the articles which do notice this often suggest that White America needs to convert these viewers in order to help the “adoption” of the game.

**This is still preferable to the awful, condescending articles which try to explain soccer and soccer players in “American” terms.

Specifically, the idea that liking soccer but not liking MLS makes you a poser fan.

Full disclosure, I’m a eurosnob and proud of it. MLS killed my interest in the league by moving my local team right when I had really gotten into it. While MLS was not good in its first decade, by 2005 it had turned into a decent product. I was watching Earthquakes games and was a bit of a Landon Donovan fan around then. The way he ended up moving to LA and the way the Earthquakes moved to Houston pushed me into the MLS wilderness. The ensuing Beckham debacle where all MLS news became exclusively “Beckham only” sealed the deal.

Soccer and America

This isn’t about me being a soccer hipster who was into soccer before MLS existed. It’s that I’m still of the mindset that soccer in this country shouldn’t be driving people away because they’re interested in the “wrong” way.

Heck, soccer in this country has done a shit job of recruiting people who have been watching fútbol forever into being American soccer fans. That the current US national team has more American-Germans than Mexican-Americans embarrasses me—and I liked Thomas Dooley back in the day. I don’t understand* how we’re unable to scout and recruit Mexican-American players. Still. It’s why I’m so excited by what’s going on in Tijuana and how it shows what soccer, and soccer fandom, can really be in this country.

*Actually, I do. Youth sports, and soccer in particular, has become a rich kids’ game. Which is awful on multiple counts.

Right now though, Tijuana is the exception. Which means that I still don’t think soccer can afford to drive people away. The important thing is to get people interested and hooked on whatever team brought them in. Even if it’s a bandwagon team. One of the glorious things about soccer is that it’s totally okay to support multiple teams. There are so many different leagues and competitions that it’s easy to pick teams who’ll never play each other.

I got sucked into Barça in part because of Romario, Stoichkov, and the 1994 World Cup. It was near impossible to follow international soccer in the US then* but by the time I was able to start following things online, the hook had already been set. I wasn’t a culer 20 years ago. But it started then.

*I remember snippets in the sidebars of the Eurosport catalog. Thankfully I got hooked up to the internet in time for World Cup 1998 qualifying.

I’ve since followed AC Siena* and, before dropping MLS, the Earthquakes. I’ve also followed Rangers, Sunderland, Manchester City, Everton, Fulham, Spurs, Blackburn, and Hanover** at various times but have never settled on an EPL team.*** It’s a hell of a rabbit hole and, while I don’t expect everyone to be like me, soccer kind of sucks you in.

*Whose repeated match0fixing issues are starting to bug me.

**Because Claudio Reyna, Brian McBride, Clint Dempsey, Brad Friedel, and Steve Cherundolo.

***I did though come close to picking Fulham.

Pick a team. Follow a player. Find a new team. Find a new player. Find a new league. Find a new team. Etc. Etc. It doesn’t matter how you start being a fan. There’s no wrong way. And it’s fine to be a newbie. Just, be careful. Soccer excels both at grabbing hearts, and breaking them.

#BigPhotoMyth

I’ve been sitting on this post for years now because I couldn’t figure out what to do with it. It was too much fun to just let it disappear and I wanted to at least comment on the results. At this point it’s best to publish and move on.

#PinkoMonopoly

Because sometimes it’s better to have fun about something stupid than to let it get to you.

#RuinAChildrensBook

Because I often zig when trending hashtag games zag,* I chose to run with this tag in the direction of things I’m noticing when I reread books for my kids. This is possibly one of the toughest parts of being a parent since it involves destroying a lot of the fond memories you had as a kid. And it involves setting your own kids up for some of the same harsh experiences.

*My six-word film plots comes to mind here as well.

Despite my critiques above, I’m reading all these to my kids still. Even Babar. Many of the books I’m actually fine with and am just being extreme with the hashtag. Green Eggs and Ham for example is obviously a lesson on not refusing food just because you’ve never tried it before. And The Monster at the End of the Book is an introduction to dramatic irony as an example of when it is actually okay to tease someone.

But yeah. Some of the others need some extra involvement to be palatable. Maybe not right now. But filed away for future reference in explaining how the world works and how a lot of those much-loved books are examples of things we’ve become more knowledgeable about now.

Pairings

Publishing this as I haven’t had any to add in months and need to clear out my post stubs.

Teenagers. In all their awkward glory.

Stares on the street. We all look. But it’s rare for a photographer to capture us looking.

Developing photos in the environment they depict.

Rivers and their environments before they’re dammed. Showing us the sacrifices we make for water, power, and development. Is it worth it? Also, the only pair I’ve written about on here: Butler andPorter.

10 photographers you should ignore

Some screwing around prompted by the strange phenomenon which occurs when a zombie blogpost gets resurrected as something to get angry about. Right. Now.

Seriously though, I’ve no idea how anyone can read the original post as anything besides humor. That it can keep trolling people years and years after posting is the gift which keeps on giving.

I figured I may as well apply the blinders approach to this list too. Although in all honesty, given the dominance of white guys in these lists, having the who-to-ignore list be all white/western is completely appropriate.

Blinders

I don’t think that Digital Trends’ writers created a whites-only list out of malice. A combination of journalistic laziness and ideological blinders is the far more likely cause. Laziness explains itself. By “ideological blinders” I mean the tendency for those of us who are the products of western culture to see the creative and intellectual output of white men as naturally better than that of women and of people who happen to be black or brown. It’s a difficult habit to break. I wonder, for instance, how many people who saw the story noticed that the list was exclusively white and male. It’s hard to remove the blinders, but it’s an important task.

Lists like this are one of the small, insidious ways in which gender and racial inequality are normalized and reproduced.

John Edwin Mason

So yeah, this is something I’m always trying to be aware of and vocal about. When everyone was partaking in the towards the 21st century exercise, I chose to ignore this and pretty quickly regretted it—resulting in my writing an addendum.

Thinking about that exercise now, I realize that the way I chose to define what I was looking for—this is in addition to my exposure being western-dominant—effectively led me into the realm of western photographers. My interpretation of “what’s next” ended up being a very western-art approach to the question where I started to look at exploring specific components of the medium itself rather than thinking about issues of subject matter and representation. No surprise at all that I ended up with western photographers.

That exercise also produced two great posts from Tom Griggs* about diversity in photography.** In Griggs’s posts, he calls for editors to do a better job at seeking and promoting international, non-western, photography. John Edwin Mason’s list of 37 (and counting) Instagram Photographers You Might Not Know is exactly what’s being called for.***

*Who actually gave me the push to take part in the whole thing at all.

**Direct link to part 2

***And kind of makes me want to rejoin Instagram. I joined a year ago as an experiment but never really did much with it since I didn’t have a smartphone and the Instagram web interface was lousy. I then cancelled my account once Facebook purchased them.

For the rest of us who aren’t editors we have to first become aware of the blinders and blindspots and start noticing when things may not add up. This is not hard but it requires us to review any lists, etc. just to see whether there are any gaping holes.

Heck, just today this photo came across my Tumblr Dashboard.

USPS

It’s very simple to just do a quick skim and look at the selection: 3 white women, 1 black man, 16 white men. Almost all active, or at least who made their most-noteworthy work, before World War 2.

This doesn’t mean the list is inherently bad. But we have to ask the questions when it has a title like “Masters of American Photography.”

It’s worth pointing out though that, if we find any holes, we don’t have to fill them ourselves. What’s important is to recognize and acknowledge the holes and, if we’re unable to fill them, ask for help from people who can help. Or, worst case, flag our biases up front and think about better ways of framing the selection.

Creation/Consumption

So this was a pleasant surprise to wake up to and is a conversation which I felt worth saving.

FWIW, I tend to agree with John Edwin Mason in that there is something distinctly important and different about enabling people to take their own photos. I’m reminded in particular of my previous insider vs. outsider post and the comparison between Laura Heyman and Seydou Keïta and my conclusion about how the observer effect applies to photography. I truly believe that it matters who took the photo and the context in which it was taken.* And it’s impossible for the increased access to taking photos to not have made a major dent here.

*This is distinct from the moaning and groaning from the professional community about how anyone can be a photographer now. Although, the fact that that complaint has been going on for over a century shows how important the perception of the creator is.

This doesn’t mean that I deny that tintypes, ambrotypes, and cartes de visite* and their popularization of the consumption of photos is also important. Heck, issues about the consumption of photos and distinguishing the good ones from the bad ones are the most-important discussion points moving forward. It’s just that we’ve gotten to this point through following the lead of the Kodak No 1 and increasing access to the creation of photography.

*Picking just tintypes however seems a bit limited to me.

Pointing and Laughing

So this video came across my radar last week. My first impression was that anyone who dresses like this should not be surprised by the attention. At the same time, there’s something disturbing going on with the way people are reacting and giving her attention. It took me a while to figure it out but the way that people photograph her really bothers me. Both as a photographer and a human.

When I was little, I was taught that pointing and laughing at people was mean and impolite. Yet the number of people here who do basically that is shocking. Is she dressed in a way which pretty much requires a double take? Absolutely. Does that mean that you need to take a photo and share it on Facebook in order to publicly mock her? No way.

Having a camera does not make it okay for you to behave like a teenager.

I don’t mind the double takes and extra attention. That outfit is begging to be noticed. It’s the intent to mock—the digital version of pointing and laughing which bothers me.

That it’s very easy to read a photograph as mocking its subject only makes the explicit mockery worse. But even in a general case, this kind of point and laugh (or point and gawk) photography is a problem. Especially when it starts to represent a lot of what people both engage in and fear about the medium.

I’ve touched on some of these before in the [internet photographer] and #FlakPhotoOnlineExhibitionTitleGenerator (two days worth) posts. In particular, there are a few things here which bad/beginning “street photographers” do which give that particular pursuit a bit of a bad name—resulting in the ability to easily dismiss the genre as “just taking pictures of people against their wills.”

Although these aren’t just limited to street photography. There are a lot of guys with cameras trying to leer at pretty girls. And it seems like one of the easiest ways you can pretend to be a gritty photographer is to take photos of the homeless. That some of these photos get picked up by news outlets as being something new only encourages this kind of laziness.

There’s a lot of overlap here with my Human Zoo post too. A lot of the problems I have with the exoticizing approach to travel is that it’s essentially pointing-and-laughing photography. Part of the problem is that it’s dehumanizing. But another part is that it goes against the way we’re taught to behave.

When kids travel it’s the same thing, Lots of giggling and laughing at things which are outside of their immediate experience. As parents, our job is to make sure they learn how to be cool around things that are different. Gawking is not being cool. Pointing is not cool. Laughing is not cool. Mocking behind their backs is not cool.* Running to get a better view is not cool. Why would photographing be OK?**

*Something which Haley Morris-Cafiero’s photography has in common with the video in this post.

**Though there is part of me which wonders what Winogrand would do if he saw the woman in the video on the street. I’d hope for something like this but that’s possibly optimistic.

I understand the desire to photograph and share everything on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Tumblr/whatever. And I understand that the desire to share funny/interesting photos is the motivation to show in your personal propaganda that your life is funny and interesting. Just be careful and aware that sharing these things often includes the subtext that you’re immature, uncultured, and rude.