The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.
Chicken McNuggets anyone?
On February 4, 2010, Gallup released its latest data on the public’s political attitudes. The headline read: Socialism Viewed Positively by 36% of Americans. While the poll did not attempt the daunting task of exploring what a diverse public understood socialism to mean, it nevertheless revealed an unmistakably sympathetic image of a system that had been pilloried for generations by all of capitalism’s dominant instruments of learning and information as well as by its power to suppress and slander socialist ideas and organization. (The North Star)
From nyc past.
It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade. — Charles Dickens
I don’t have anything to say in any picture. My only interest in photography is to see what something looks like as a photograph. I have no preconceptions.
I thought about the Winogrand quote when I saw the Moriyama video. Moriyama comes close to saying something very similar — but, more importantly, he also says that he does not see any great, big difference between what he is doing, and what any camera-equipped tourist is doing: snapping away to see what it looks like.
That, of course, goes right for the jugular of the question that will always mar photography: But is it art?
In the days when painting was the primary visual art, we were not always in doubt like that. To paint requires some basic techniques (photography used to, as well, but those mundane barriers are thoroughly gone by now.) We cannot really use technique in a strict sense as a shibboleth: no refined brush strokes to examine, et cetera. It is not like seeing the work of the casual Sunday painter versus the work of a Dutch master, is it?
But then this:
Levine is best known for the work shown in “After Walker Evans”, her 1980 solo exhibition at the Metro Pictures Gallery. The works consist of famous Walker Evans photographs, rephotographed by Levine out of an Evans exhibition catalog, and then presented as Levine’s artwork with no manipulation of the images. The Evans photographs—made famous by his book project Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, with writings by James Agee—are widely considered to be the quintessential photographic record of the rural American poor during the great depression. The Estate of Walker Evans saw it as copyright infringement, and acquired Levine’s works to prohibit their sale.
So, Ms. Levine creates facsimiles of what we are more or less certain is art (if, indeed, Walker Evans is art in a strict sense – he was, after all, primarily a documentarist…) I shall not be the judge here.
Fine art photography is photography created in accordance with the vision of the artist as photographer. Fine art photography stands in contrast to photojournalism, which provides a visual account for news events, and commercial photography, the primary focus of which is to advertise products or services.
So what makes photography fine art is the previsualization? Although I am sure many casual photographers do that — and Evans, though being more of a photojournalist certainly also did. And some “commercial” photographers straddle this divide – think Galen Rowell.
Yet, we often feel what is what. But maybe not, or only because we are steeped in a tradition. Take away this historical knowledge, and maybe we are left with this:
Hi Garry. You caught some nice poses here. Biggest problem is I can tell the horizon isn’t straight. It doesn’t look like a hill. Man at right needs to be cropped out. Sometimes I find if I shout right before I take the picture I can get people’s attentions. If you had done so we would have been able to see more of their faces. George MacWilken
Perhaps the final acid test is this:
No, Henri did not do that (and perhaps he should have sharpened a little more, and fine-tuned his autofocus a little.)
I shall leave this can of worms out of it: what degree of digital manipulation is acceptable? Surely, for “fine art” anything goes. But for photojournalism? Is a little auto-contrast fine, but not a full HDR treatment? But what if you are Walker Evans?
For those uninitiated into its history, conceptual art can often seem like a trick — is that really a urinal in an art gallery? Is sticking yogurt caps on gallery walls really great art? Unfortunately for Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, the stars and creators of the sketch TV show Portlandia, it turns out that conceptual art can actually trap you, even outside of a gallery opening. (Hilarious Portlandia Episode Shows the Dangers of Conceptual Art)
Trailer for the upcoming, crowdfunded Vivian Maier movie. Promising.
Daido Moriyama shares some of his fascination with photography. Also, a really, really cool video.
I have a pretty good time reading Barbara Ehrenreich’s Bright-Sided at the moment. She stands in that great, American tradition of non-fiction writing where the anecdotal is but a starting point and each page expands upon the merely personal and creates something general. Moving from the concrete to the abstract, if you will, even though Ehrenreich’s theoretical and ideological underpinnings are perhaps not all that clear and perhaps this is to make the book easier to swallow for the public – or perhaps that is also the limits of her own insights.
There are sudden flashes that make you go: Aha. She hints at a connection between the rise of “finance capitalism” (circa mid-70s, at least in the USA) and the wave of downsizing, rightsizing and outsourcing and what not, and the maniacal focus on the bottom line, year by year, quarter by quarter, day by day, and – at the very same time – a shift away from what suddenly seemed like old-fashioned, fact-based management towards the cult of the super-human CEO that intuitively and inexplicably just knows and makes all the right turns. Perhaps a Steve Jobs could be one of those (although I believe that there was much more to his success than charismatic personality) – and perhaps Steve Ballmer, in his incarnation as an all-dancing, all-screaming corporate clown shows that the desire to be charismatic does not make you so. Still, she also notes the sad decline of Tom Peters from “management guru” to “boxer-shorts clad weirdo”? Except, perhaps, for the fact that Peters is still revered and people still search for excellence.
I am not sure what all that means. Is it the rise of “finance capitalism” what triggers this change in attitudes towards management? And, if so, why? It is tempting – or even unavoidable – to think there must be some connection, but it is much more difficult to figure out what the causality might be, if any.
Private equity is, however, something that is intimately connected to “finance capitalism”. It is been a short span of time since the first large-scale leveraged buy-outs to our present world, where merry bands of marauding “investors” roam the streets in search of companies that they can “buy”, settle with debt, gut, and resell. And enjoy being written up as good guys that help weed out bad companies and so on and so forth. It is true, perhaps, that from a strictly Marxian POV, they do what they do as parts of a larger machinery – maybe what is called “finance capitalism”, and not with any larger personal responsibility that that of the shark that eats the swimmer. It is all in their nature. Except maybe not. Even from a POV that is favorable to capitalism as such, these actions actually do not work. Not in the long run. True: they help create a pool of labor that is willing to work for minimal wages. But these peoples’ values as consumers of goods is nil – or only as good as the credit they may have left. Probably not much. And if our ideal was some sort balanced, more egalitarian, mixed economy – private equity is, indeed, the pits.
But… nevermind. This was supposed to be about the book. What is really interesting is how Ehrenreich sees the relentless positivism, the self-help books, the personal coaches, and so on and so forth, as so much mumbo-jumbo. As we descend into the wonderful world of late capitalism, capitalism itself loses any pretenses of rationality, and becomes positively relativistic. Religion and spirituality come back to haunt us, and when we lose our jobs, due to “cost containment”, we only have ourselves to blame. And so on and so forth. Mitt Romney’s fake smile and immensely vacuous personality is perfect for this age and could have been iconic.
Except he was not elected. There seemed to be a limit, after all.
That is the view from the building that I report to work in every morning. Except weekends, of course. At least so far. So this is not Kansas anymore, or even Østerbro — the rather quiet and residential hood where I live, and where I also used to stroll to my office desk in about 5 minutes. I now, alas, suffer from a 15 minute commute on the train, to go right smack downtown. If my window had been on the other side of this building, I could have posted a view of the Tivoli Gardens instead. So, moved downtown.
I shall, for now, spare you all the details about why working for a company that is taken over by private equity sucks – just trust me on this one: it does. So I decided it was time for a new beginning, and a not-too-fond farewell to capitalism at its worst. For now, at least, I am at a solid, money-making, privately-held-by-the-founders (who still work here) company. Not a “cost containment” consultant in sight.
Since it was now a time for changes, I wanted to go back and revive this website. It has been a static affair for a while, but what really made me go and ring some changes was the desire for making it responsive. Since the default template of my old CMS amour, Textpattern, happens to be a responsive beast these days, I set good old Textpattern up once again. Just like the olden days. So there is a solid foundation, and I shall start tinkering to make it mine. Things could very well be a little transitory here for a while.
And that was a first post. The game is a-foot, it seems.