Sunday, April 29, 2007

Sundance


My own attempt at a eco-woman shot. I think this is my best picture yet and it's done really well on Flickr. It's made Flickr's Explore but I don't understand why it's not higher up with the amount of comments and favorites it's had - but who knows what the secret formulae is to get to that top position. Anyways I'm very happy with it, and it felt very nice and free taking it too!!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Surfacing

This week words and pictures came together. I'd just finished reading Surfacing by Margaret Atwood when I came across this picture by one of my favorite Flickr photographer's Rebekka.

The picture strikingly reminded me of the novel I had just read in which at the end the protagonist becomes ferile. Surfacing is often classed as an ecofeminist novel, playing with the argument that two very defined, contradictory, and dualistic worlds exist in the patriarchal society: the feminine and the masculine. On the one hand, the feminine principle represents mother nature, the body, irrationality, emotion, intuition and mysticism. On the other hand, the masculine principle represents rationality, logic, separation from nature, the head, intellectualism, language, and concrete reality. In the novel the Surfacer constantly struggles to function in her masculine dominated society: she feels cut off from emotion and feeling, grapples with the actual language, and initially tries to deny her natural roots. By the end of the novel she has shed her clothes, her words, and lives in the forest as an animal - she becomes part of the landscape. I'm not sure that the message of this book necessarily needs to be "feminist", on a simpler level it could just be "eco", a return to and acceptance of the natural world. At the end of the novel though the Surfacer prepares to rejoin the society which she had rejected, I'm not sure why, it seems a bit of a cop out. May be she had finally discovered who she really was, not radically separate from nature, she felt she could re-enter as a changed person more able to cope with the struggle of everyday life.

This book is considered one of the most important of the 20th Century. Not sure I agree, it made me think though and that's always a good thing.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech

Whilst the shocking events at Virginia Tech yesterday were fully covered by the media, it was the bloggers and flickr users who portrayed the unfoldings of the tragedy, the grief, and the anguish, better than any news station. Within hours blogs held firsthand accounts, pictures had been uploaded to flickr, before the evening a VT Memorial group was set up by the facebook community and a comprehnsive entry adorned wikipedia. The reporters sniffed this out in minutes. Looking through some of the blogs and seeing the endless messages from CNN, MTV, CBC, BBC, every media company imaginable, to "get in touch" to supply them with first hand stories I feel slightly sickened. Once again the bloggers are doing their jobs for them, but for the bloggers it's not a job, it's their lives, in many cases lives that have been rocked beyond belief. The public nature of the blog puts emotions on show, and when those emotions become the focus of the media it can be hard comprehend, as one of the most media-sought bloggers writes:

"This is ridiculous. I find myself getting excited because I'm on the news (Fox News recently shared the blog). Each time I hear something else I get a brief moment of selfish joy before I am stabbed in the heart, realizing that I deserve no credit and that lives are gone, destroyed, and in pain. What is the significance of all this? My postings are simply what I always do-- except I left my thoughts for the public instead of just my friends. This run of emotions is hard to bear. I need to go for a walk-- but of course, what good is that since everything is outside my door. There is no escaping. The chains have been tied to the door."

It's easy to forget that as a blogger the world can see your words, not just you and your friends. We are wearing our lives on our sleaves.

I think that these days it's easy to become numb to the news, every day so many horrible things are reported to be happening in the world. But the unedited "informal" reports and stories that flood the internet, from the mouths and the eyes of the people that experience them, bring me down to earth. They elicit a greater reaction in me than a man stood with a microphone next to a big white news van on the edge of the VT campus twisting language for politics. Reporters without borders.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

What makes a good photograph?


I look through all my favorites on Flickr and try to determine what it is I love about each one I select. There are patterns. Along with the obvious choices of vibrant colour and nature (as I love vibrant colour and nature) I find that more and more I am liking long exposures and I love interesting portraits. I think that this is because these types of pictures tell stories. Long exposures reveal an accumulation of moments that, in total, to me, are more like a memory. Portraits go beyond the immediate visual detail. There is a kind of discord / dichotomy that I like about them. I like the passage of time collapsed into a 'still' - and the instant extended - the photograph reveals something that ordinarily is only held in memory. Some photographs are wonderful attempts at making pictures of both 'time' and 'memory' together. I guess I try to hear with my eyes what the photographer is saying.

Photographs featured: Long Exposure Set by _rebekka

My latest faves on Flickr

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Found in the funniest of places

I've been using a tool called the flickrinspector to find out where my photos are being used (they are available under a non-commercial creative commons licence) and they have turned up in the funniest of places:

* The Gay and Lesbian Rowing Federation have used one of my Oxford rowing pictures
* A picture taken of a chocolate cake has ended up in an article in a free software magazine. Naughty naughty, splapped wrists...the author adapted it, not allowed under my licence but I'll let that lie the nice person that I am!
* A blog on Orangutans
* A blog on Flamenco
* Photos of Green College Gardens feature in an online travel guide to Oxford
* Most recently, and perhaps most bizarrely, my naked back sat on a beach has ended up on a free poster to promote ethical patents. Two photos are featured side by side, mine and a photo of the back of a great big sumo wrestler. The caption is "less is more" - I'm taking that as a compliment...I think.

All this lovely free usage does make me wonder though what I would do if someone used one of my pictures to promote or illustrate something I didn't agree with, racism, sexism or an anti chocolate campaign perhaps. I'm just waiting for a foot fetish freak to pick up "Looking for fairies" or "Let me just lie here"...What ho! It's all in the name of art.