Tag Archives: Photography

Kill Team shots were censored to keep you from seeing victim was so young

Remember this damning photo, the American GI grinning as he posed with his haphazard victim? You saw the version with the Afghan’s identity obscured, and you thought it was bad enough. Not hardly. The USG pixelated the faces out of respect for the victims we were told — not to keep everyone from grasping how young was this victim, told to stand still while our soldiers lobbed a grenade his way and ducked for cover.

The future of photography is time

I know little about fine art photography, darkroom craft or print collecting, but I will foolishly assert this: the future of the two dimensional print is the time-dimensional print. It’s only with the evolution of high definition that I dare say it, video. THE FUTURE OF 2D IS NOT 3D IT’S 4D. (Actually 3-D is a tech injected myopia, by 4D I mean two dimensions plus time plus sound) I do know that photo technology for everyman has breached the fourth dimension, mounted paper prints are a throwback for older generations like mine, who think of the past in terms of stills. Before us it was black and white. Moving picture snap shots are no gimmick. Purists can mourn losing the split-second frozen in time, but who can argue that elapsed time does not add an infinity of fractions more? Yes color film lost the contrast of monochrome, just as paint left the shading of charcoal. Movies have long since eclipsed slide shows and now it’s time that single-frame photographers step up to digital video, same fixed shot, same composition, time exposure set to however long will hold the viewer’s gaze. Soon online videos will embed as smoothly as static images, and two dimension visuals will be lifeless.

And like its archival predecessors, devoid of the information we already want to glean from the past.

I offer two examples for this argument. If modern galleries can break the silence barrier, the visual arts would also benefit by retaining the dimension of sound too.

Michael Deppisch’s montage of the 2010 Nashville flood.

Hector Thunderstorm Project by Murray Fredericks

Hector Thunderstorm Project from Murray Fredericks on Vimeo.

Yes it was the iconic reaction shot


The White House Situation Room group photo of everyone fixated on the live video feed of Operation Geronimo was “iconic” alright, in composition virtually Alfred Aisenstaedt’s original. Your eye is drawn to center right where Hillary Clinton recoils not sure what to think, she’s a foil to the uniform enthusiasm. Scanning the background as we read a page, Biden knows they’re going to hell, Obama is the everyman caught mid-gasp, he reflects us. The rest are the upraised arm, cheering with ass-kicking glee. In Paris they were watching St. George slay the dragon, puppets no less –how far we’ve come– though Punch & Judy would have been analogous enough: a Navy Seals home invasion, Fort Benning School of the Americas style; a night-visioned, take-no-prisoners death squad, riding in on not just the proverbial black helicopters, but apparently a black-budget three-rotor model never yet publicly unveiled, literally, bin Laden was shown it and they had to kill him.

National Geographic is a nature pic zoo

Upsala Glacier Chile in retreat
January’s National Geographic featured an article about Charles Darwin. Juxtaposed against excerpts from Darwin’s diary on the Beagle, were the usual photographs of nature at its most vivid. But an image of a glacier, purporting to match Darwin’s awed description, left me slack- jawed with contrary impression. We’ve all been treated to then and now pictograms of retreating glaciers, so the National Geographic’s usual reverse illusionist, nature-isn’t-vanishing-act, wasn’t going to work for this pastoral scene. I’m looking straight through the glossy NATURE industry, and it’s nothing but a virtual zoo.

You might say the world of nature documentaries keeps more to the spirit of the early collector-adventurers, who shot and stuffed their specimens, in the name of documenting their existence. Certainly the photographers of today are capturing the living images of soon to be gone phenomena. Perhaps it’s more appropriate to regard their nature images as exhibits of Natural History.

Except that Museum goers know that what they are looking at is dead. Nature program viewers are given no such insight. And need they, really? If the closest that the recliner-set get to the Pacific Ocean is their HD flat screen TV, what does it matter if the Pacific is full of plastic instead of fish? Nature-appreciation wise, the eyes of the climate-controlled majority dictate its value.

The illusion which nature programs create is of a living Earth, susceptible to cycles, or whatever excuse they present for why you are hearing reports of coral bleaching while enjoying high saturation images of vibrant, fully vital, reefs. You are shown things alive, and so you believe it lives. That’s where this glossy facade is a lot more like a zoo.

Zoos are criticized for showing nature out of context. Even as the best zoo settings approach the theatrical stages of natural history dioramas, they still present an inert being. The zoo animal is not searching for food, fending off predators, or jockeying for a mate. The zoo attraction might almost be preserved in formaldehyde, for all it teaches about nature, and mankind’s relation to his origin.

Zoos, like domestic animals neutered or spayed, like doe-eyed Disney renditions of circle-of-life citizen animals, teach an antiseptic version of wild life, where man might deduce that his own life’s purpose is but a few years spent pinned like a butterfly adjacent thousands and millions more.

Camera lens filters enhance reality, camera lenses compress and direct it. That much we already knew.

Nature programs and nature photography present life as a spectacle, and seem at first glance to highlight every minutia for our increased understanding. But shown out of the context of the Earth’s present difficulties, the images inform less than they distort.

Photog Jill Greenberg is a real maverick

A menacing John McCainJill Greenberg was hired to photograph John McCain for a cover of Atlantic Magazine. But she also used deliberately unflattering lighting known to anyone who’s held a flashlight to their chin. McCain’s handlers weren’t “sophisticated” enough to know it would make their candidate look horrific. Now Greenberg is in hot water with editor types who lament her exploitation of the gentleman’s agreement that rules the publishing world.

Do these editors hear themselves laud the principles which ensure they are never more than corporate PR shills? And isn’t that putting it delicately? These offended prigs are media whores, slapping colleagues who aren’t sucking up enough. These are the courtiers who won’t tell the emperor he has no clothes and who offer their guarantees that any photograph they take will not reveal it either.

Why should cold-hearted, dishonest, politicians like John McCain not have to be wary of critical journalism, instead of being able to count on the entire industry to collude with their deceitful imagery? Greenberg captured very telling stills of the rapacious, senile GOP Lugosi. So what if she wants to Photoshop juvenile mockeries of him on her website? Hopefully she’ll take a crack at Sarah Bride-of-FrankenCain too.

Homage to decline

Linsay Lohan recreates the Bert Stern Marilyn Monroe Last Sitting out-takesWhat were they after with this shoot? Does Lindsay’s fall parallel Marilyn’s? Has photographer Bert Stern forgotten that his first Last Sitting became iconic for being the Last Sitting? Did the original out-takes, which were iconic also with the Xs marking their initial rejection, elevate themselves beyond whose extinguished vitality they depicted?
 
Stern recreated the flat hair and unbecoming figure of a fallen goddess. He could have held a cattle call for that. I’m reminded of the Tarantino homage to seventies porn, appealing only for its familiarity. Marilyn Monroe’s last shoot was beautiful for the glimpse we caught of mankind’s fragility. Post-teen queen Lohan is just slumming. Next they can pose Robert Downey Jr in a silver ’55 Porsche Spyder.