Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category
Photography is stimulating. A decade ago I first visited Rome with a digital camera. Overwhelmed by the vast collections of the museums holding ancient collections, I shot everything in sight, realizing I could later take my time viewing the exhibits in detail on my computer screen. I’ve since visited Rome a lot, accumulating around 60,000 photos of ancient artworks, mostly imperial marble portrait heads and early Christian artifacts.
The photos moved me to study some of the obscure corners of antiquity – Christianity in particular – that don’t mesh all that well the customary view. One such case is this curious Christian grave slab. A Columbian student working on a project saw this photo on my website and asked if I could explain the subject matter. I wrote her a response, which I’ll summarize here.
The grave slab, possibly a sarcophagus lid, celebrates the life of a woman named Severa. Her hair style indicates she lived in about 325 AD. Her posture says she was a scholar and Christian philosopher, and was proud of it. Romans, like others at the time, had a habit of not breaking words on their natural borders. The inscription actually reads, “Severa in Deo vivas” (Severa in God lives – Severa may you live in God).
In this Christian scene, Mary, sitting on a wicker chair, is made to look like Severa, holding the toddler (not infant) Jesus, who, inconsistent with the New Testament gospels and Christian tradition, reaches out to receive the gifts brought by the magi. The magi wear tunics and Parthian caps, to indicate their oriental origin. The man standing behind Mary is almost certainly the prophet Balaam (Numbers 24:17: ”I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; A star shall come forth from Jacob, A scepter shall rise from Israel, And shall crush through the forehead of Moab, And tear down all the sons of Sheth”). Esoteric reading of the Old Testament – seeing obscure and subtle connections between old and new Testament – was very common in the writings of all forms of Christianity of that era.
The imagery is clearly Christian, though not totally orthodox. The epiphany scene points either to the Gospel Matthew version of the story (where it is implied that the magi show up sometime before two years after the birth) or, more likely, to a version considered heretical by later Christians, from a book commonly called the Protoevangelium of James. Epiphanius of Salamis, wring in the late 4th century, promoted Matthew’s implication (Panarion, Book 51, Chapter 9) of a two-year-old Jesus, arguing that Luke’s account was incorrect. In the Protoevangelium, Jesus is explicitly stated to be two years old.
The Vatican’s placards on pieces like this are conveniently silent on what should be apparent to scholars of ancient Roman iconography. The message in stone is clear, and points to the root of what has been likely redacted and sanitized in early versions of the writings that became the gospels. The magi incident is not a celebration of the birth of a spiritual ruler by adoring astrologer-soothsayers. It is an overt surrender by the magi to a newborn divine super-magician. The gifts are not simply random items of high value. They are instruments these magi used to cast spells, now rendered impotent in the presence of Jesus’s stronger magic.
Christian writers of the time of Severa had no problem with seeing Jesus as a magician. The pagan writer Celsus, as quoted by the Christian writer Origen, asked whether we should regard all the other magicians trained by the Egyptians as son of God also. Origen, in his multi-volume diatribe against Celsus, denied that Jesus’s magic itself was unique. He instead argued about its source. Clement of Alexandria and the non-canonical Acts of Peter describe contests of magic between Peter and Simon the Magus. Justin Martyr made desperate attempts to differentiate Jesus’s magic from that of other magicians. Athanasius of Alexandria, writing in the era when Severa lived, tied himself in a bit of a logical knot, explaining that Jesus was not a magician, but that his magic triumphed over that of other magicians.
I’m glad I shot that photo ten years ago.
Photos look great on the iPad. As long as you’re pulling them from a website. Noting a lot of hype last year about the iPad being a photographer’s best friend I recently bought an iPad camera connection kit (beautifully packaged, like everything from Apple) so I could view photos straight from the camera. I plugged my CF card into the camera connection kit and my iPad complained that the connected USB device requires too much power.
Apparently Apple reduced the USB output by 80% in iOS 4.2, rendering the camera kit useless for CF cards and didn’t bother reporting that fact to prospective consumers of the camera kit. Their site still says: “The iPad Camera Connection Kit gives you two ways to import photos and videos from a digital camera: using your camera’s USB cable or directly from an SD card.”
Many others reported what I found. One photographer reported specifically buying an iPad to review photos with clients at the end of a shoot. “The fact that Apple has suddenly and without any warning stopped supporting the camera connection kit is appalling.”
I might have researched the issue in advance if not for the constant praise of iPad I hear from photograpers. E.g., Apple iPad – A Photographer’s Best Friend and The iPad – The Best Device For Photographers.
Really? You can’t use the iPad to transfer photos from a camera or its memory card onto a portable hard drive. Even if the iPad’s memory were large enough to hold all the images from a photo vacation, you can’t transfer them to the iPad without using a bunch of hardware that negates the iPad’s weight and size advantage. A Toshiba mini-laptop with the same size screen as an iPad costs half as much, has a keyboard, and can actually transfer images between external memory devices.
As long as you are in consumption mode, the iPad works well. The minute you try to produce, arrange, annotate, edit, or do anything creative, the thing is useless. There’s some degree of humor in this, given Apple’s stated commitment to creativity.
I’m not the first to offer this sentiment. Vivek Wadhwa, an eloquent and bold individual who regularly calls Silicon Valley on its fanboy silliness, notes in Why I’m Craigslisting My iPads that the iPad’s “means of transferring documents—through iTunes—is pathetic.”
Despite the fact that Safari crashes evey time I visit an interesting site, I still use it often. My iPad answers two important questions for me each day:
1.) What other movie was that actor in?
2.) What ingredients do I need for Thai green curry?
A1: M. Emmet Walsh was also in Blood Simple: “Now in Russia, they got it mapped out so that everyone pulls for everyone else - that’s the theory, anyway. But what I know about is Texas, an’ down here – you’re on your own.”
1 pound chicken breast cut into 1 inch cubes
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons cooking oil
2 tablespoons green curry paste
2 green onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 cups coconut milk
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup cilantro leaves, for garnish
A few months ago I polled my photographer friends regarding the best online storage solution for photographers. Most recommended Mozy, and said they were using its unlimited backup plan. I signed up, paying for a two-year plan, thereby getting a lower yearly rate. Mozy’s backup app calculated that it would take months to backup my stuff.
Two months into my subscription I happened to see an announcement on Mozy’s home page telling me that the unlimited subscription plan is no longer available, and that my plan would be “automatically renewed to one which supports your current usage needs.”
Mozy hyped their “unlimited” plan heavily right up til the price change, signing up their existing customer base. I can choose not to renew at the end of my plan term, but what I’ve paid for is useless to me. It makes no sense for me to continue uploading all those files, only to need to begin the process elsewhere in a year with someone else.
Rob Haggart’s discussion of online storage options with calculations of cost per month at APhotoEditor is worth a read. So are the comments, where a few readers note that their data creation rate is higher than their possible file transmission rate, thus their backlog continually increases.
I’ve thought about switching to another provider, but scrutiny of their terms leaves me wary. BackBlaze’s disclaimer of warranty appears to claim that BackBlaze and its vendors are all likely to be incompetent boobs with no idea how to run a storage center. The other backup sites may have similar terms.
Despite (or because of) the other advances in digital technology, storage is becoming a bigger problem as time goes on. I’ve decided on a simpler approach. My dad’s going to get a portable 1-Terrabyte drive of backup files from me in the mail every few months. At 3 x 5 x 3/8 inches each, by the time mom complains about the space they take up, I’m sure much more compact drives will be available. Or there’s always the in-laws.
I just heard from Thomas Hawk that Flickr deleted a photo set from his visit to the World Erotic Art. The museum complained to Flickr that Hawk had infringed their copyright. The Miami museum allows its pieces to be photographed but wants control over distribution of photos. Copyright aside, I’m interested in why a small museum would take such a position.
Let’s take a look at the non-endowment income sources for a private museum. They would seem to all fall into the categories of membership and entrance fees, website product sales, gift shop sales and concessions. It’s probably useful to attempt to characterize the types of customers for specialty museums like this, and how photos of the museum’s collection might impact their behavior.
Local enthusiasts might spend the $100/year to be members. Photos posted on Flickr would have little impact on the museum’s revenue from this group. Local enthusiasts already know about the museum; and if they want photos of collection pieces, they can take their own and print them if they wish. Being able to view photos on Flickr is unlikely to change the visit frequency for such enthusiasts. Flickr postings won’t impact gift shop sales for this group either; if they wanted snapshots of museum pieces, they would already have them.
People who know about the museum, but visit it infrequently because of lower interest or being distant from it might be reminded to plan another visit by seeing a photo of a collection piece. They might also conclude that a second visit isn’t needed since they can see enough material on Flickr to satisfy their interest level. Of course they could also see online images of some of the museum’s collection at the museum’s website. If that site were the only source of photos of their collection, it’s possible that web searches for items in the collection would generate more museum site product sales than if Hawk’s Flickr photos were available on the web.
99.999+% of people on earth have never heard of the World Erotic Art Museum. This is obviously the most important group for which to examine the impact of Flickr photos. If the photos drive traffic to the museum’s site, or if it causes increased visitation, this is entrance fee and gift shop revenue from a group that the museum otherwise was unlikely to reach though normal advertising.
In weighing the pros and cons of Thomas Hawk’s Flickr photos (which gave full contact info for the museum), the museum must evaluate the relative value of increased awareness of its existence, subsequent increase in entrance fees and product sales against lost admission fees and product sales. Hawk’s photos will undeniable increase awareness. He’s a popular Flickr member; hundreds of thousands of viewers see his stuff. Lost revenue from those satisfied by a peek at a museum’s collection is rather hypothetical. I seriously doubt whether it exists at all, but we can dig into that a bit.
Bear in mind that we’re not talking about people who see Hawk’s photos of the collection and take some interest in them, but elect not to visit the museum. What percent of Hawk’s viewers already knew about the World Erotic Art Museum? Certainly a small number. What percentage of those were already planning a visit when they saw his photos? Another small number. Now what percentage of that subset changed their minds about that visit as a consequence of seeing photos of the museum on Flickr? Those are the lost sales. Put any wild guess numbers into that equation and the answer is obvious. And the result is not really sensitive to the percentage of income the museum takes from fees versus sales unless their website product offerings are so lame that Flickr photos are equivalent to those products. They’re not equivalent.
It takes great ignorance of basic business principles or incredible arrogance to conclude that the net impact of this sort of exposure to thousands of potential customers would be negative. You’d have to believe that you were on the verge of incredible growth without the incremental exposure provided by free advertising on Flickr.
Do museums really think that people who attend museums will stop doing so because they see small images online? If so, they need to study their customer base a bit more. Authorities at Ostia Antica in Italy cite this concern as the root of their policy against photography in Ostia’s museum. Ostia is an ancient Roman site similar in size to Pompeii. Its lack of skeletons of huddled bodies no doubt hurts its popularity. But it also suffers because casual American tourists have never heard of it, despite its close proximity to Rome. As anyone who’s ever bent down to feel ruts carved into ancient pavement by chariots 2000 years ago knows, online viewing is no substitute for being there. Ostia allows shots of the ruins; given the size of the site there would be no way they could enforce prohibition. But not so for their museum housing some important sculpture from the site. These pieces, such as a larger-than-life statue of Maxentius, might increase interest in Ostia Antica if anyone knew they existed - the prohibition of photography being so effective that academics don’t even know they exist. For example, a JSTOR or Google Scholar search on “Ostia Maxentius statue” or similar will fail to find anything useful.
I get a lot of email from people planning visits to Ostia, some of which say that their interest stemmed from a large set of Ostia photos I once maintained on my own site. Imagine what a big bunch images on a high-traffic site like Flickr might do. The World Erotic Art Museum and the Museo Ostiense would do well to meet for a reading of Gerard Tellis’s Effective Advertising. Then they can sit back and imagine – just imagine – what it would be like to get advertising for free.
My man Maxentius
I like war. At least I prefer it to many alternatives including defenseless invasion of our borders, tyrants seeking world domination, and slavery. I think most people do – they just lie about it. As General Patton put it, “Americans love to fight… America loves a winner.” I disagree with Patton on centrality of infantry however. Foot soldiers fare much worse than those backed by high technology. War and technology make a great combination, and you whiney Barbara Lee followers in San Francisco owe your iPhones to it. I chuckle to see the peace activist’s tongue-tied efforts to form a rally cry without using the word fight.
I try to get out to see war technology whenever it’s in town. The crowds for this sort of thing are usually minimal in San Francisco. This week the Royal New Zealand Navy frigate Te Kaha was in town, along with the tanker Endeavour. No San Francisco newspaper mentioned the visit. I was alone with my 17mm lens.
Te Kaha (F77) is one of two Anzac class frigates in the Royal New Zealand Navy. Te Kaha is the Māori word for fighting prowess. It can travel at 30 miles per hour and carries the Phalanx CIWS anti-ship missile system and the RIM-7 Sea Sparrow anti-aircraft missile system.
SH-2G Seasprite helicopter on deck of the HMNZS Te Kaha.
For there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. 1 Corinthians 11:19
An engraving from ancient pre-Christian Rome tells us that the Iobacchi, the cult of Dionysus/Bacchus, had similar problems with factions among their members.
These bits of history came to mind when I spoke today with a guy marching in the San Francisco Pride Parade, also called San Francisco Gay Pride Parade. He carried a sign saying “Not Gay Enough.” I asked what it meant. He explained that his softball team, D2, had two years ago been stripped of 2nd-place title in the Gay Softball World Series because it was not gay enough. D2 included some bisexual members, and according to the guy I spoke with, after winning a game in the series they were challenged by the Atlanta Mudcats on their gayness. D2′s members were individually interrogated by league authorities who asked intrusive questions about their sexual behavior, after which they were thrown out of the series. A lawsuit now rages between the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance.
Now despite the fact that both sides feel wronged and that politics of sorts has again scarred the solemnity of baseball, this issue seems to be a mark of success that the affected community could take pride in.
Dare any of you, having a matter against his neighbor, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? 1 Corinthians 6:1
A small community under attack or condemnation doesn’t breed internecine warfare. That is the product of a group that has grown in strength to the point where the dangers of external foes have diminished. The epistle to the Corinthians makes it clear that factions existed in early Christianity and that Paul, or whatever school may have authored the book, just wanted everyone to get along like they did in the old days. This point is nailed home in the New Testament by comparison of similar statements in the gospels. The writer of Mark, certainly the oldest of the four gospels, has Jesus say that whoever is not against us is with us (9:40) but Matthew, no doubt written decades later (feel free to challenge me on this – smile) has Jesus make a bolder claim: “He who is not with me is against me.” George Bush preferred that latter version.
In any case I doubt that 40 years ago, when the first Gay Pride Parade was held in San Francisco, any gay sports team would have even considered challenging a bisexual team on such a matter. That’s progress.
Not gay enough was a thought that nagged me as I watched this parade. Partly because I felt a bit for the members of D2, but also for another reason. The success of the movement that gave rise to pride also attracts the commercial concerns that latch onto to any cause they see as an economic opportunity. It’s a minor complaint but it just seemed there were far too many peripheral politicians, martial arts groups and businesses straining terribly to associate themselves with the cause. I suppose that’s what parades have always been about, but at moments the thing, festive as it was, just seemed like it wasn’t gay enough.
Bet you thought I was going somewhere else with those New Testament quotes.
Last time I griped about how art museum curators have hijacked art by selecting artists not on talent but on their ability to produce conceptual bullshit. In writeups on exhibit pieces, curators no longer suggest what the artist might be trying to say; they state it with authority. It comes with a fat slice of their political views, and is yours for the price of an admission ticket.
A favorite example comes from a 2003 exhibit of works by Sam Durant I saw at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The exhibit included Durant’s Partially Buried 1960s/70s Dystopia Revealed (Mick Jagger at Altamont), now on display at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art. Durant’s piece involves drawings, piles of dirt, and full-size tar paper shacks, obviously tied (derivative, some might say…) to Robert Smithson’s famous Partially Buried Woodshed on the campus of Kent State University. As the Chicago curator explains it:
Durant parallels this symbolic historical comparison with the way in which Smithson’s Partially Buried Woodshed came to memorialize not only the students who were killed at Kent State, but in many ways the promise of the 1960s, an entropy unto itself.
While viewing Partially Buried 1960s/70s Dystopia you listen to some tape loops of Brown Sugar by the Rolling Stones and are supposed to think about the contrast between the peaceful Woostock festival and the Altamont concert where four people were killed in violence as the Stones performed Brown Sugar. I did in fact think of those things; I was instructed to do so.
The LACMA writeup explained how Durant’s drawings “provocatively bring together the racist misogynist lyrics with references to process-based art from the same period.”
I’ve never really cared for the Rolling Stones, but I object. I have nothing against Durant’s piece, though he’s been at this for about fifteen years and some fresh dirt might be warranted. But its meta-art, the insipid write-ups that follow it, that I see as truly shallow works of idleness and impotent stupidity recycled among curator whores looking for handouts from limousine liberals.
This blog post is an appeal to wealthy ex-hippie donors to say you’ve had enough. After all, you guys were there when Jagger sang Brown Sugar.
I recall that the Rolling Stones toured with Ike and Tina Turner. They obviously outright worshipped Howlin’ Wolf, as is obvious in footage of Brian Jones introducing Howlin’ Wolf on a televised 1964 performance. The Stones seemed to revere Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon too; the references in the Stones’ music and lyrics are obvious. Jagger toured with Stevie Wonder and later Living Colour I believe. Also Billy Preston, Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, and Peter Tosh. So it might be just a touch of a history rewrite to call Jagger a racist.
“Well the gal’ in danger, de gal in chains, but she keep on pushin’, would you do the same?
These are the words to Sweet Black Angel, a 1972 Rolling Stones song where Jagger pays tribute to political activist Angela Davis, then in prison on a murder charge. Oh the irony of it. It almost warrants an art exhibit.
Well, I don’t completely hate them. I’m a member of all the local museums and I visit them fairly often. I guess it’s the artistis’ and curators’ political agendas that have come to irk me. Life in San Francisco is sufficiently politicized already. It would be nice to visit SF MOMA just once without being blamed for slavery, the plight of downtrodden workers in central America, and obesity in school children.
One might excuse the artists. They are unsubtly directed by their educations and by grants. It goes without saying that artists have unique insights into what troubles America and that their vital role in contemporary culture is to communicate this timely evangel through art. Curators channel that expression just a bit too much for my taste, turning exhibits into sophomoric political statements expressed in overblown and obtuse language.
Consequently, exhibit rooms become crowded with people gathered round lengthy write-ups on the exhibit pieces, trying to decode a curator’s undecipherable complexification which examines [museums love using which as a restrictive pronoun] the artist’s recontextualization of something or other vis-à-vis capitalism’s chokehold on social justice.
Next time at in SFMOMA, watch the crowd. Note the amount of time visitors spend reading about a piece compared to the time they spend looking at it. Standing while reading someone else’s opinion – probably less informed than my own – is bad enough. Reading four paragraphs to discern only something vague about my demographic being the bourgeois oppressors kills my desire to see the art. But there’s other art to see in the museum.
A few days ago I posted a piece here on some extremely cool uses of photography and image manipulation in the study of ancient portraits of Augustus and Caligula. Or so I thought. Only a handful of people looked at it. Though I knew this was esoteric fare, I’m still a bit disappointed. If I were more conscious of hit count, I wouldn’t post that sort of thing. I’d probably go for slightly more accessible material. I might even include some Hollywood big names to try to suck Google’s crawler into thinking there might be something of mass appeal here.
I suspect that one way to attract photographers would be to talk about photo equipment with liberal use of equipment keywords. For example I might talk about my Canon 5D Mark ii, also known as the Canon 5D Mark 2 or Canon 5D Mk2 and my collection of Canon lenses for my Canon 5D Mk II digital camera. But little remains to be said about the Canon 5D series except that there are rumors of a Canon 5D Mark III. Pray that this is released any day now, all of you who desperately need more pixels for Ashley’s birthday party pics.
Hot Bikini Babes!
Writing about hi-tech products like the Canon 5D Mk II and using their names (e.g., Canon 5D Mark 2) liberally can get you noticed by search engines, but, if views is what you seek, tech can’t compare with mentions of today’s favorite Hollywood darlings – especially if you use their names near the word photo as would be natural and quite legitimate in a photo blog. Such names include Yvonne Strahovski, Mila Kunis, Elizabeth Hurley, Diora Baird, Olivia Munn, Megan Fox, Rosario Dawson, Kristen Bell, Freida Pinto, Zoe Saldana, Kristen Stewart, Malin Ackerman, Maggie Grace, Sienna Miller, Jessica Biel, Sasha Grey, Vanessa Hudgens, Lizzy Caplan, Anna Faris, Isla Fisher, Olivia Wilde, Abbie Cornish, Alison Lohman, and Diane Kruger. Even old-news Hollywood hotties get a lot of hits – names like Beyonce Knowles, Keira Knightley, Angelina Jolie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kerry Washington, Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Alba, Marisa Tomei, Natalie Portman, Charlize Theron, Gwyneth Paltrow, Catherine Zeta Jones, Lucy Liu and Anna Paquin; and when it comes to newsworthiness, Demi Moore’s legs still have legs.
But I don’t know any of those stars, and otherwise have little to say about them. I have known a few famous models though. Martina Warren (topless at top, in b/w) has been photographed by famous photographers including Suze Randall, Stephen Hicks, Carl Wachter, Jerry Nickels, Donna Kelly and Randy Lee. She was picked as Penthouse Pet of the Year in 2005, making her, at that time, the highest paid beauty contest winner in the world. I took the shot of her above in 2004, back when she had a strong British accent, before she hit the hot chick press big time.
My photos of Bridget Marquardt (above, pink mini), famous from her role on the television reality show (suspension of disbelief invoked on reality) The Girls Next Door, where she played one of Playboy magazine publisher Hugh Hefner‘s girlfriends, do get some attention. Bridget is a smart, planful, hard-working woman. This shot of Bridget in a pink mini-dress was my all-time most viewed shot on Flickr. I found this odd because I didn’t tag the photo with her name or in any way identify the subject as being Bridget. Sure, she’s mega-hot, but there’s much racier stuff than that on Flickr.
Fellow photographer Amber Arbucci (above, not nude, but even a hint of nudity is still of interst to search engines because, for example, discussion of it involves the words nude and nudity) has been in front of the lenses of big name photographers including Helmut Newton, Walter Chin, Bruce Webber, Ellen Von Unwerth, and Marco Glaviano. She’s appeared in Marie Claire, GQ, Rolling Stone, Zink, Cosmopolitan, FHM, In Style, and Vegas. Amber’s done advertising campaigns for Victoria’s Secret, Rampage, Abercrombie & Fitch, True Religion, Nicole Miller, Speedo, Sephora, Haynes, X.O.X.O., Valentino, and Tommy Hilfiger. But she also does great work behind the lens. Check out her wildlife photography site.
Hot Lingerie Models!
To attract readers who wouldn’t normally take interest in my esoteric fare, I might also attept to co-opt the culture and language of a younger generation, steering clear of my normal outdated slang, imitating a hip, streetwise character. Those too young to properly express the complex ideas and thoughts that they clearly possess have pimped some righteous verbage. While I can’t really seem to get jiggy wit it, it does hold the appeal of brevity, immediacy and disregard for spell check.
Maybe I’ll just become a regular tottie poster, flossing like I’m way GQ. Maybe do this alot. LOL. Don’t kno if U believe me? U should!!! b/c I’m being real. Yeah… I shall rock some serious jam. See U dudes whenever. Yer gonna luv it cuz its soooooo fine! Troo-dat!!!
Sexy Exotic Girls!
Now go check out Augustus and Caligula.