Category Archives: twitter

#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.

Rhapsody in Rue

Welcome to the new world order of customer support. It’s been a while since I had a proper rant on this blog.

I haven’t been a big flier. But since we’re moving across the country and will now be flying between California and New Jersey multiple times a year, I’ve reluctantly accepted the reality that signing up for a frequent flier program made sense. Since United offers non-stop flights between SFO and Newark, and because we’d flown United for our trip out scouting the area, I figured I’d use that trip as a basis for starting my frequent flier account.

I figured it would be easy. After all, a recent traveler who liked the flight enough to convert to being a frequent flier is a satisfied customer right?

I gave United way too much credit. I can’t believe how quickly they converted me from being a satisfied customer to being as annoyed and pissed at them as possible.

The main issue is that the website is awful. Signing up for the account is fine. Transferring the miles is where the trouble begins. Website asks for the ticket number I want to transfer. Field is limited to 13 characters. My ticket number is 14 characters. This is annoying but not upsetting yet. I try both logical options and enter my ticket number without either the initial digit or the final digit.

Both fail. One number can’t be found. The other says that the names don’t match.

Name matching is actually a feasible issue. My ticket does not have my middle names on it because many websites are still stupid and can’t deal with multiple middle names. But I did sign up with United with my full name. No big deal though. United’s website says changing my middle name is simple and straight forward.

Except it isn’t. Deleting my middle names results in United requesting my tax records and marriage license. Fuck. That.

This is also the second time that United’s website information has been flat-out incorrect. Which means that I’m beginning to feel lied to. Which is how I start to get upset.

I figure I should at least exhaust the help options before getting upset though.

Mistake. The online help is designed to piss you off. All it does is send you to the webpages which weren’t working in the first place. In other words. It’s completely useless.

So I fired off a bunch of ranty tweets and went to bed.

These actually got a response and all seemed well. United’s twitter representative was friendly and responsive and it seemed like everything had been taken care of. While nothing showed in my account yet, I know these things do take a while.

One week later? Not so much.

Again, I should have expected as much. This time the information from the twitter representative pointed me toward the customer “service” phone line. That line involve talking to voice-recognition software and wading through the response tree. After I navigated to where I wanted to be, the computer told me that my transaction could not be completed and kicked me back to the beginning.

I have no idea why it failed. This is even worse than the website. At least the website offered lame excuses. Phones just wasted my time.

This time, the Twitter rep managed to get someone, a real person, to call me. And, from the department of famous last words, things appear to be all sorted now. I’ll know for sure in 48 hours but having talked to a real person, I’m much more confident.

Yay.

I’m still not sure if shoving all communication for customer support onto social media is a good strategy. I’m very glad social media is responsive. But it encourages ranting in order to get a response. Since I’m not the type to rant prematurely, this means that I end up getting really upset—not the customer experience any brand should want.

The Talk

I haven’t been watching the George Zimmerman trial too closely—meaning that I can’t get too worked up about the result.* I have been watching the conversations about it though. And while I know my blog isn’t about this kind of thing, the most-recent NPR Codeswitch prompt has had me thinking about “The Talk,” growing up non-white, and raising two sons who will be “of color.” While my thoughts aren’t entirely relevant to the Zimmerman discussion, I’ve thinking enough about them that I have to post them somewhere.

*I’m leaning toward the lousy laws produce lousy verdicts school of thought. Which means I completely agree with Ta-Nehisi Coates

I’m hapa.* I was “chinese”** when I was a little kid. I looked latino when I was a teenager. I’m lucky enough to pass as white now. I don’t remember explicitly receiving “The Talk” from my mom*** but I picked up the basics someplace in there. People will jump to conclusions because of how you look. Avoid putting yourself in sticky situations by being aware of how your actions could be negatively perceived. Be polite. Actively seek to deëscalate things.

*Previously touched on when I discussed Kip Fulbeck’s work.

**Read, “oriental.” Back in the days when “chinese” and “asian” were synonyms.

***My dad is white and not qualified to deliver it.

When I was out with my mom, I was always especially aware of all these guidelines. I was even lucky enough to have inside access to sports and theatre growing up yet never felt comfortable enough to really do anything with that access besides observe. I always felt like someone would notice me, I would get in trouble, or that I didn’t belong there.

Yet when I was out with my dad, it was like those restrictions didn’t apply at all. Things I would never feel comfortable doing, with my mom, let alone by myself, my dad would just blithely do. And nothing would ever happen. This confused me so much.

It was only when I was in college that I began to realize how my dad had had white privilege while my mom and I did not.

No doubt helped by the sense of privilege that comes with being able to talk your way in almost anywhere by saying. “I’m a Stanford student working on a project,” I also discovered in college that I had a choice about whether or not I could assume white privilege.

This was huge and mind blowing. It took me a couple years after I graduated to fully wrap my brain around it.

I still have the same person-of-color instincts and observations running through my head. I’ve just added another layer of “don’t behave like a victim” responses on top of it. For every “I can’t do that” or “I don’t belong here” gut-reaction avoidance which occurs to me, I think about what blithely clueless response will get me out of the situation. And I behave with the confidence that I deserve to be there and that no one will question me because I look white.

When I had kids, despite my baby naming rules, the one real rule I had running through my head was to give my kids as much of an opportunity as possible for passing. I know I’ll still have to give them the talk. Actually, their mother will probably do a better job of it since she’s still learning how to pass as white.* My hope though is that it will be only have to be the “all kids and teens are treated as non-whites” version rather than the “you’re going to be treated this way for the rest of your life” version.

*Which she can do. Especially when she’s with me. But she’s only learning how to do so now and I think it’ll be a last-resort option in her survival toolcase. But it’s still a nice tool to have.

I’m also lucky that they’re too young for me to have to explain the Zimmerman thing to them. Sadly, I know there will be another occasion which will prompt this discussion. I hope I’m with it enough to explain beyond a reasonable doubt, garbage in vs garbage out, and Type I versus Type II errors.

Famous Subjects

I’ve been keeping a list of these in my head since I find them interesting. Especially the street photos where the subjects aren’t actually posing. I don’t have much to add but when I saw someone start tweeting these, I chimed in with the ones I knew of.

Well, one thing that I do find really interesting about these is how they help us understand the way the photographer approached the scene. In the case of Elevator Girl and Grenade boy, we even have contact sheets* to go with the stories. Learning the back story helps us understand the famous image better.** It’s always nice to be reminded how a photo doesn’t exist by itself.

*Elevator Girl’s contact sheet. Grenade Boy’s contact sheet (which he commented on).

**Jörg Colberg has as nice essay looking at Migrant Mother.

#ReplacePeterLorreWithR2D2

So I was a bit disappointed to realize that I’m conversant in very few Peter Lorre movies. I was tempted to include a reference to Arsenic and Old Lace except that I couldn’t make it work. Is just as well, these three are all movies I really really like and would recommend to anyone.

Anyway, motivation came from here.