Concerned that photographers need multiple websites to find what they need, web designer Stephen Hockman has created a new social network called Shutter Pals. Photographers from around the globe can now connect with one another to share events, sell equipment, and chat in forums.
Although the idea isn't exactly new, Sportsshooter has been doing this for years, it does open up the field more for experts and novices. The one drawback so far is that you have to subscribe to get a better sense of the services available. I think opening up just a few of the "zones" might draw more users to the site.
This blog has suffered in recent months due to the fact that all the free time seems to have been sucked out of the schedule.
Recently, we have been at work designing and implementing a new series of courses at Southern Oregon University called Digital Media Foundations. The inspiration for the project came at a time when the university was wrestling with a $4 million budget deficit. People were being laid off and academic programs cut.
During this period, fortunately, opportunities to reorganize some of our programs also came up. With all the turmoil going on, a few instructors and very supportive deans decided to look into ways of optimizing learning experiences offered to students, especially in the areas of digital art, visual journalism, video production, and web design.
We started out by counting how many courses across disciplines teach pretty much the same things such as digital software applications, digital photography, and digital video. It was actually surprising to see so much overlap in content across the curriculum. The idea wasn't to replace existing courses, but to collaborate on integrative ways of teaching digital and technological skills to incoming students.
After months of meetings, the first of the DMF sequence of courses got off the ground. With four instructors lecturing and working in labs, students are being exposed to thinking through the language of our increasingly digitally-based visual world. In other words, the course explores some of the fundamentals of visual narrative, design, and critical thinking about the creation and consumption of visuals in a digital age.
Interestingly, the biggest challenges have not been in designing curriculum or working with students, but in helping the administration and other faculty to realize the value of an interdisciplinary approach to teaching digital and technological literacy. Despite the perception that learning institutions are often called progressive places, the speed at which change can occur seems to frustrate a lot of people. Fortunately, when momentum and timing is on your side opportunities present themselves in surprising ways.
September 30, 2007 in Ashland, Oregon, Dennis Dunleavy, digital cameras, digital literacy, digital media and teaching, digital media_, Education, Internet Learning, Journalism, Journalism Southern Oregon University, mini-digital video, moblogging, new technologies, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Southern Oregon University, teaching, technology, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, ways of seeing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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What do leggy women, newspapers, and sexual attraction have in common?
Editor & Publisher, the newspaper industry's leading trade publication, may need a little sensitivity training these days after people concerned with the objectification of women take a look at their latest promotion.
In an announcement for a photo contest, the organization ran an ad (see above) that can read in several different ways. Signification is the process of making sense of the things we see by interrogating the visual cues and associations represented. What we have here are faceless women, sets of legs, and newspapers without pictures.
The image is accompanied by the headline, "Papers without pictures just aren't very sexy." The associations implied suggest a relationship between newspaper photos, women and sex. We can assume that the people who approved such an advertisement were probably male, although it is hard to say with any assurance.
August 21, 2007 in consumer culture, Current Affairs, Dennis Dunleavy, editor & publisher, Education, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, semiotics, sexual identity, signification, stereotypes, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, ways of seeing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Brooks Institute of Photography has been granted a full five-year license renewal through April 2012 from the Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education. Greg L. Strick, Brooks president, made the announcement April 24, in a letter to Friends of Brooks Institute of Photography.
After nearly two years of uncertainty, following an investigation by the BPPVE concerning recruiting practices at the school, news of the renewal comes as a relief to the institution and its many graduates and students.
According to Strick, the "Announcement is the result of positive findings by the Bureau after a full and comprehensive two-day site visit in January 2007." In a press released issued through Business Wire, "These recent events vindicate the school's decision to appeal BPPVE's July, 2005 decision to issue a Notice of Conditional Approval to Operate (the "Notice"). The Notice was heavily publicized and included several findings that Brooks Institute believed were inaccurate and unfair."
Albeit good news for Brooks, the comments collected on this blog over the past two years, reveal a mix of emotions toward the school and its recruiting practices.
Although the comments made to a blog can never be generalized to infer anything other than personal opinion, many of the posts signify heart-felt feelings of distrust and frustration. It is implied in the tone of Strick's letter that the school is looking forward to putting the past aside in order to keep the doors open and the students coming. It will be interesting to listen to how former students react to the latest news.
There are times when technology gets the better of us. Yesterday, for example, the technology driving the dynamic web design at MTV.com created irony when video from the Virgina Tech killing spree became juxtaposed against an advertisement promoting the new "Smokin' Aces" movie -- a film that promises to be full of bloodshed and mayhem.
Dynamic web content refers to an interactive design that places elements on a page in response to various contexts. However, this type of interactivity can also end up sending conflictive messages, especially since studies show that viewers do not navigate web content the same way in which they would read in a traditionanl print format.
To its credit, given the fact that technology can bump heads with social and cultural values, MTV is aware that issues such as this one can arise from time to time.
According to MTV, its news staff makes an effort to "....move on removing such inappropriate juxtapositions...Unfortunately, the system did not react as quickly as we did. We continue to do our best balancing the inevitable byproducts of dynamism."
At the same time, there appears to be a critical flaw in the increasingly blurry lines between news and advertising content these days on the web -- one that places a premium on making money through advertising over the common sense and good judgment of providing reader's with news.
Kate Zimmerman writes about another juxtaposition of questionable ad placement on Yahoo -- one which a reader views a story about the shootings next to an advertisement for L.L. Bean.
"The contextual ads shown against this story are almost completely irrelevant, if not inappropriate - further proof that contextual ad networks need human editors (or at the very least, a way for advertisers to safeguard against poor placement)."
April 16, 2007 in advertising, Current Affairs, Dennis Dunleavy, digital literacy, Education, images of violence, Internet Learning, Media Bias, media consolidation, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, Picture Editing, teaching, technology, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, visual violence, ways of seeing, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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How much of what we know about the human costs of war do we let in to impact us in profound ways?
Although there are remarkable and powerful images of war to remind us of the unthinkable horrors human beings continue to suffer, it appears that for the most part we rarely truly learn from them.
Although we appear fascinated by the sacrifice people endure for a cause, noble or ignoble, most of the pictures that remind us of those sacrifices seem all about ignored.
The pictures we see of dead and wounded civilians and soliders in times of conflict become social artifacts that may or may not stir our emotions or move us to action.
In recent times, we have seen how Joe Rosenthal's picture of a band of Marines raising a flag on a tiny island in the Pacific could mobilize millions of Americans in the war effort during WWII.
Later, we have seen how another image could have just the opposite affect, as Nick Ut's picture of a young girl running naked down a road after she was burned in an aerial attack on her village by the South Vietnamese Air Force, with U.S. support.
Images such as those by Rosenthal and Ut remain embedded in our collective consciousness because of how often they are repeated and recollected in our visual culture. When we speak of patriotism and sacrifice, or, of so-called the "good war", the Iwo Jima flag raising image seems to always come to the forefront of our common discourse. When we speak of atrocities and failed U.S. foreign policy, so too, do we find referencing the incident at Trang Bang, Vietnam, where a little girl and nations were changed forever.
Recently, a photographer in Southern Illinois has made an image, or a series of images, that should become emblematic of what critics are beginning to call the current quagmire in Iraq.
The picture by Nina Berman of Redux, is a wedding portrait of a Marine who had been burned over much of his body. Although badly disfigured from a bomb blast in Iraq, his facial features all but melted away to bone, Ty Ziegel lives to tell his story to the world.
The picture, as simple as a picture can be, makes us want to listen. The picture makes us cry out in empathy, muster hope in the presence of such incredible human spirit and strength, or simply cringe in disgust. In the end, however, it is the couples resolve that makes us want to listen.
In a recent article in Salon.com, photographer Berman suggests, "What makes pictures interesting is that they provide the space for the viewers to contemplate."
Contemplation is a form of listening to our innermost feelings about the things we see. Contemplation, if given space, moves us to act on our feelings. To contemplate the explicit and implicit meaning of Berman's image means to imagine our own lives transformed by war as Ty Ziegel's life has been.
Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk and writer, once observed that "True contemplation is inseparable from life and from the dynamism of life--which includes work, creation, production, fruitfulness, and above all love. "
"Contemplation is not to be thought of as a separate department of life, cut off from all man's other interests and superseding them. It is the very fullness of a fully integrated life. It is the crown of life and all life's activities."
Berman's wedding portrait has received acclaim in photojournalism. In fact, it won top honors in the portrait category of the World Press Photo competition this year. But it is not the picture, as an object or artifact, that should be admired and remembered. What should be contemplated here, first and foremost, is that the judges recognize the saliency and value of the content within the frame. The space Berman speaks of here moves beyond the rancor of congressional debates and presidential pomposity. The space Berman speaks of gets to the core of some of the most essential qualities of being human -- love, loyalty, hope, and reconciliation. Can a picture evoke the "big" ideas expressed here? Apparently so.
How will history remember Ty Ziegel's wedding picture? How could this unassuming portrait of a wedding couple become the next Iwo Jima or Trang Bang in the collective memory of wars past and present?
What distinguishes the pictures is less a matter of aesthetics and more a more of politics. For the Iwo Jima picture the U.S. government adopted the image as mass marketed it as the embodiment of the "good war." In the case of the Trang Bang picture, the anti-war movement of the 1970s embraced symbolism of the moment as proof of the so-called "dirty little war."
Pictures, in iconic terms, extend beyond the meaning of occurrences in several ways. Iconic pictures, such as the hooded prisoner of Abu Ghraib, signify ideological bench marks in history -- turning points -- in the cultural memory of American society.
It is only through the assimilation of an ideological benchmark image into our visual culture as a form of a larger societal discourse that an iconic permanance can emerge. Although the Berman image has been seen now by ten of thousands of web-watchers, it will not be until we see the picture on billboards, war posters, and TV screens that its status as an iconic image will endure as a product of social consciousness.
March 10, 2007 in Current Affairs, Dennis Dunleavy, Education, iconic images, images of violence, Internet Learning, Iraq, Iraq War, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, Moral complexity, nina berman, photo digital manipulation, Photoblogging, photoblogs, photographic ritual, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, pictures of the year, Political pictures, portrait photography, President Bush, ritual, semiotics, signification, teaching, Trang Bang Vietnam, Ty Ziegel, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, visual violence, war photography, ways of seeing, Web/Tech, World Press Pictures of the Year | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Repsonding to a request for more information about the situation at Brooks Institute of Photography I am putting together a chronological listing of some of the stories and links I have collected. In addition to conducting a web related search for links to stories about Brooks, I have also searched the LexisNexis database through our Hannon Library at Southern Oregon University. The list is in no way complete. If you have any other references to add to this bibilography please feel free to email me or comment on the blog.
On July 19, 2005, Business Wire and the Financial Times reported how Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, owned by Career Education Corporation, was given a notice of conditional approval to operate from the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education.
The following day, The Ventura County Star, Santa Barbara Press, the Associated Press, and Inside Higher Ed ran articles about how the school was being investigated by the state for alledgedly "willfully" misleading prospective students to enroll at Brooks. According to these early accounts, the Associated Press reported that "Former Brooks administrator Cam Van Wingerden triggered the state investigation in September 2003 when she alleged school officials forged and tampered with student files and administrative records, purportedly so the school's then-new Ventura campus could pass inspection by accreditors."
Within the first week of the news about the investigation, the Ventura County Star reported how the school would appeal a report by the state education watchdog agency.
The buzz about Brooks began in earnest, however, after The New York Times's Gretchen Morgensen wrote a story titled, "The School that Skipped Ethics Class," on July 24, 2005. Shortly after publication, Morgenson's story was picked up on A Photo A Day and the Digital Journalist. The story also made its way onto blogs like this one and StockPhotoTalk also followed the news about the investigation.
Interestingly, in December 2005, the Ventura County Star also covered a story about how some Brooks students produced a film about the school's legal woes, which was promptly banned by the institute.
In a January 2006 article, The New York Times in reporting on New York State's move to freeze the growth of vocational and commercial schools in the state mentions California's problems with regulating institutions and mentions Brooks Institute of Photography as an example.
By March 2006, Brooks had won its legal battle with state regulators. Consequently, another round of reportage covered the issue including, a Business Wire story on March 16 titled, "Career Education Corporation Announces Favorable Decision for Brooks Institute of Photography; Judge Invalidates Actions of California Bureau." The local papers also reported on the court's decision.
In In August 2006, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported on legislative debates in California concerning regulating for-profit colleges such as the University of Phoenix and Brooks Institute of Photography.
January 2007, Ventura County Star, "Brooks Institute under microscope:State critics say school misleads its students" by John Scheibe.
The Vault Student Surveys has a number of comments about admissions requirements for Brooks Institute of Photography.
In January 2004, Kodak announced it would stop making film cameras. Faced with the reality that film was rapidly being pushed aside by digital technologies, George Eastman’s company was in turmoil. In fact, in the first years of the new century, the firm cut more than 22,000 jobs.
For Kodak, the writing had been on the wall for some time as digital cameras were already outselling their cousins in film by leaps and bounds. In 2003, more than 50 million digital cameras were sold, an increase of 64 percent from the previous year.
Today, the digital camera market is flattening out. As the market becomes increasingly saturated with product, digital camera sales are predicted to peak at 111 million by 2009. Nevertheless, there seems to be no turning back. More than a century earlier, George Eastman, Kodak’s founder, dreamed of making photography an “everyday affair.” Consider Eastman’s surprise at how much photography has changed since the day he hit the street promoting his Kodak One to the public.
The introduction of the digital camera has changed how people act in front of and behind the lens. The act of reviewing the picture immediately after capture, similar to the affect Edwin Land’s Polaroid, alters the interpersonal dynamic between subject and photographer significantly.
The time of Eastman’s “everyday affair” has come in an age of instant everything. Digital photography is making how people communicate cheaper, faster and easier than ever.
The immediacy of digital photography has several advantages over older technologies beyond speed and cost. The digital photography allows people to be more productive, feel more creatively empowered, and to develop greater levels of social interaction than previously experienced with older technologies.
Digital photography has a democratizing impact in that ultimately increases social and empathic interactions, greater productivity, and creative empowerment. At the same time, the seamless and malleable nature of the digital format raises, once again, concerns about the authenticity and veracity of the image.
From a social psychological perspective, thanks to digital technologies, human visual behavior in the age of instant becomes a fascinating and ever changing challenge.
Increasingly, for many of us, the world in which we live has been defined not only through our direct experience with it, but also through the pictures we carry in our heads about it. Advertising images, television, still pictures, and now just about everything about Internet, provide us with a relentless stream of mediated visual messages.
Young people now experience the world radically different from their ancestors. Growing up in the age of instant means that people learn about themselves predominantly through the likenesses and representations created by others.
The images we see in print or on a screen map a world view, construct and define desires and fears, create self and group identity, promote societal likes and dislikes, and promulgate a collective memory.
On the day we dropped our toddler off at daycare for the first time we included a tiny book of family photographs. Feeling guilty that day for having to leave our child with strangers, we believed that the pictures would be a consoling influence for her throughout the day.
In grocery store we avoid the cereal aisle knowing well that the brightest, most colorful, and most seductive boxes of cereal, designed to attract the attention of little ones, are always placed on the lowest shelves for easy viewing. Pictures, as a form of persuasive communication, inform, shock, terrify, tease, inspire, entertain, teach, seduce, and console us emotionally and intellectually.
“We thus live in an era in which it is difficult to conceive of even a single human activity that does not use photography, or at least provide an opportunity for it to be deployed in the past, present or future.”
Ariella Azoulay, (2005). The Ethic of the Spectator: The Citizenry of Photography. After Image: 33
What is unique about the photograph is the almost instant capacity to substantiate our experiences, and by extension, our very existence in time and place. The only problem now is that in a world already saturated with images, we continue to produce more and more of them. If cultures are shaped through ritual and routine, then, images play a significant role in process as an on-going medium of recollection.
February 24, 2007 in Current Affairs, Dennis Dunleavy, Education, Journalism Southern Oregon University, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, photographic ritual, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, ways of seeing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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How could such an important story get so buried by the mainstream media? Why does it take a scandal, such as the one the Washington Post reported on recently about conditions Walter Reed Army Medical Center to break through to the public?
Let's face it, pictures of a soldier having a leg amputated aren't as interesting as those showing the car bomb du jour in Baghdad. Pictures of a Marine learning how to walk again cannot compete with the seemingly endless stream of press conferences announcing the latest strategy for winning the war in Iraq. More than anything else, however, is the fact that pictures showing the consequences of the conflict gets personal. Every soldier has a story to tell that is unique and very personal. Ultimately, the stories soldiers have to tell reveal the disturbing and honest reality about the conflicts we find ourselves engaged in overseas.
To tell these stories accurately and honestly news organizations would have had to commit more resources than they normally would on what is typically considered human interest. However, there are exceptions such as Todd Heisler's Pulitzer Prize winning photo essay on a family's struggle to cope with the death of 2nd Lt. James Cathey or the essay by James Natchwey on soldiers recovering from injuries featured in Time magazine.
Part of the problem may be how news is categorized by news organization into what is perceived as either "hard" or "soft." The dichotomy between classifying news as more salient or relevant in terms of content becomes especially problematic in the case of the injured soldiers story.
Showing how the lives of thousands of injured Americans are dramatically changed by war challenges our preconceptions of what news is.
In other words, it appears that the mainstream media doesn't get behind a story like this one until there is critical mass. This gets back to the criticism that the media may not tell us what to think, but they do tell us what to think about.
How the injured soldiers story has been typically framed for us as a human interest story rather than as a "hard" news issue, until now, suggests a form of agenda setting. For example, look how long it took for Americans to see images of the flag-draped coffins returning from Iraq. Clearly, there is are ideological interests involved in keeping Americans in denial about the very real costs of war. Pictures of injured soldiers does little to promote a war-time mentality, because they speak truth to power as well as challenge the logic and intelligence of our foreign policy makers.
There is a dramatic difference between what is perceived as "front" and "back" stage news stories. In society today, it is easy to miss all of the backstage stories associated with the conflict in Iraq since so much press attention seems to focus how a political administration reacts to specific developments and events from day to day. In many ways, evaluating how the media uses images from Iraq is like watching a football game on television.
In summary, what we too often see in visual reportage today is the "effect" without understanding the "cause."
February 23, 2007 in Agenda Setting, Battle-Hardened Troops, Current Affairs, Education, images of violence, Iraq, Iraq War, Journalism, Journalism Southern Oregon University, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, Moral complexity, Photoblogging, photoblogs, photographic ritual, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, propaganda, ritual, Southern Oregon University, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, visual violence, war photography, Washington Post, ways of seeing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry's famous "Afghan Girl" picture becomes a prop for revelers at carnival celebrations in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil this week. The dancers dressed in burkas, while carrying a framed picture of Shabat Gula, the girl's name, illustrates how images maintain relevance as a cultural tropes in societies around the world over time.
The picture of the revelers also reminds us what Crownshaw was talking about when he spoke of how the human mind can "colonize" memory and identity.
February 21, 2007 in Agenda Setting, Education, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, photographic ritual, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, Southern Oregon University, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, ways of seeing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Linda Richards, a student at Southern Oregon University, raises her voice in unison during a rally and march demanding change in how the State of Oregon supports its institution.
Southern Oregon University is facing a $4 million budget deficit due to declining enrollment and cuts in state spending. In January, President Mary Cullinan proposed eliminating 30 staff, 24 faculty positions, as well as three majors and the honors program.
Photo by Cynthia Edmonds
Success in teaching comes in recognizing those small moments when a student truly begins to realize their intellectual potential through observation and interpretation. When a student "gets it," it feels like standing in front of a 200-member choir singing Handel's Messiah.
Recently, I asked my photojournalism students at Southern Oregon University to reflect on an earlier post I did on observation. They were not only to reflect on what I was trying to say but also go out and practice the art of observation. Last evening, Cyndi e-mailed in her assignment and reflection. The picture above is one result, and the following passage is another:
In theory, it makes sense that a photographer should be in tune with their surroundings and use all of their senses when capturing a moment with impact. It makes sense that to capture the intricacies of life on film, then one needs to immerse themselves in all the details that make up the setting of the photograph. However, knowing something in theory and applying it in the practical action of photography is a complex task.
From an early age our brains are wired by society to see things in a certain way. It is not an easy task to switch gears; however, the more time spent consciously opening all the senses to an environment, the more likely those senses will begin to open up unconsciously.
And now for the kicker:
"A person knows they have been corrupted by their photojournalism professor when they look up into the sky, notice sunlight shining through the clouds, and don’t say, “How pretty,” but, “I like that lighting.” Of course, two seconds later, the clouds have moved and the moment’s gone before the camera can even be raised toward the sky."
I hate to think of myself as a corrupting influence, but if I can make people see the world around them in new ways, so be it.
Another student, Kelsey Richmond, thinks intelligent observation may sometimes even get in the way of making emotionally compelling images.
We as a race in general do not “observe intelligently”, that we do not immerse ourselves in out surroundings and really connect with our world. However, I feel that personally, at least, the more immersed I become with my environment, the more emotional judgment my photographs contain. Only after I have become truly engrossed and connected with, say, a sunset will I go so far as to comment on its beauty. I do feel that to make a photo of a subject, after I have become emotionally involved with it does change the feel, the meaning of the photo. Yet somehow I feel that if I did not take the time to immerse myself, so truly observe the subject, I might never have given it a second thought. I might never have even considered taking a photograph of it. And perhaps my emotion, my connection to the subject is what makes it beautiful. Perhaps my best photograph is best because it is mine, because I composed what I saw into a frame with the intent of making others feel how I felt at that time.
Perhaps, then, thinking about what we see as we go through the process of making images is not the most constructive thing we could do for ourselves and our students. Perhaps, we should just encourage individuals to immerse themselves in the world with their cameras in ways they feel work for them. In other words, less thinking about the act of making pictures, and more doing, more snapping, and learning by doing.
Maybe this is what Kelsey means when she notes, "I sometimes feel that to observe intelligently takes most, if not all
of the fun out of photography." This may well be true for some, but photography is as much about process as it is about product. To arrive at the end, we must understand the beginning and middle as well.
In today's culture of immediate "point and shoot" gratification, there appears a tendency to have a finished, emotionally and intellectually moving result without having to do any of the work to get there. Ultimately, for me, photography is about transformation and humanization. Photography, through observation and reflection, encourages empathy and telling what we believe to be the truth as we see it.
February 13, 2007 in Documentary Photography, Education, Journalism Southern Oregon University, photoblogs, photographic ritual, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, teaching, technology, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, ways of seeing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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News about how photography is becoming increasingly diverse in our digital universe in all over the Internet these days. Stories about how our visual culture may be changing how people act in front of and behind the lens of a camera. However, human nature and needs based on fears and desires, remain the same.
People remain obsessed with making and sharing images with each other, but now there is the Internet and digital technologies to make it all that much easier.
This week alone, on the seedier side of life, there are stories about how Scottish troops made mobile phone pictures of each other allegedly taking drugs while on duty, nude photos of actress Jennifer Aniston appearing on the web before the release of her latest movie, a teen prosecuted for taking naughty photos of herself and her teenage beau and e-mailing, the arrest of an Australian man for taking dozen of digital photos up women's skirts, a host of embarrassing and personal photos of a young woman in a dressing room mysteriously appearing online after being dropped off for processing at Wal-Mart.
We hear a lot about how digital photography is helping people become more productive and creative in recording their daily lives, but what we don’t often understand is how the darker side of human behavior is also coming out. We know that citizen journalism is now joining forces with mainstream media, camera phones are being banned from public places, and new laws are prohibiting pictures such as those from Ana Nicole Smith’s autopsy from ever being published.
Are digital cameras enabling deviant behavior more now than in the past with film cameras?
February 12, 2007 in camera phones, celebrities, censorship, Citizen journalism, consumer culture, Current Affairs, Dennis Dunleavy, Education, high school life, Journalism Southern Oregon University, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, mini-digital video, Mobile Journalists, moblogging, new technologies, observation, Personal Media, photo collage, photo digital manipulation, photoblogs, photographic ritual, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, teaching, technology, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, ways of seeing, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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On Friday, the Associated Press announced it will be working with PublicNow.com to expand access to news as it happens. PublicNow has a membership base of more than 60,000 citizen journalists in 140 countries, while the AP remains the world's largest news gathering operation with more than 4,000 employees.
Potentially the partnership could revolutionize mass media by doing away with the boundaries between amateur and professional content production. It will be interesting to see how PublicNow contributors understand and comply with the conventions, standards, and ethics of mainstream journalistic practice.
According to Managing Editor for Multimedia Lou Ferrera:
"In the early stages of the relationship, AP bureaus will work with NowPublic communities in selected locations on ways to enhance regional news coverage. National AP news desks also may tap the network in breaking news situations where citizen contributors may capture critical information and images. NowPublic also will help AP extend its coverage of virtual communities, such as social networks and contributed content sites."
The collaboration, however, seems to signify a trend in the industry to capture competition for content in an already content-saturated media environment. A few months ago, Yahoo and Reuters joined forces by inviting citizen shutterbugs to submit images of breaking news events.
Although the merger of professional and citizen-sourced content is inevitable in an age of instant communication, the road ahead may be a bit bumpy for an industry already struggling to maintain credibility and public trust.
As images and events continue to flood into the newsrooms of AP, Reuters, and other organization from citizen-sources, what is to prevent public relations firms and the government from trying to make propaganda appear more legitimate. If I worked for a company that wanted to get on the news wires to sell a product or brand a name, I would be thinking really hard right now how to take advantage of the collaborative trends.
Already, news seems so saturated with an array of pseudo-events that stretch the definition of what constitutes relevant and significant information.
Ultimately, wire services and Websites will be challenged to ensure that citizen-sourced media is legitimate and credible. At the same time, maybe the prevailing public perception of mass media as a trustworthy source of information is so low, that it won't really make much of a difference.
Michael Tippett founder of PublicNow.com write in a recent post about the Anna Nicole Smith notes that many people are becoming concerned that the news is increasingly sensationalist and celebrity driven.
What really struck home was Tippett's comment on how news has changed in recent years.
"Where news goes wrong is when it goes from being the messenger to being the message. Where people get bored is when news produces celebrity instead of reporting on it."
February 11, 2007 in blogging, censorship, Citizen journalism, Copyright, Current Affairs, Dennis Dunleavy, diffusion of innovation, digital cameras, early adopters, Education, Fair Use , First Amendment, Internet Learning, Journalism, Journalism Southern Oregon University, media consolidation, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, Mobile Journalists, Personal Media, Photo-ops, Photoblogging, photoblogs, photographic ritual, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, point and shoot cameras, Press Freedom, propaganda, public domain, public journalism, PublicNow, Reuters, ritual, semiotics, signification, Southern Oregon University, technology, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, Web/Tech, Weblogs, Yahoo News photos | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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How much of what we see do we really understand or even try to make sense of?
The answer to this question lies in developing the skill of intelligent observation.
Artist and philospher Frederick Franck noted, "We have become addicted to merely looking at things and beings. The more we regress from seeing to looking at the world—through the ever-more-perfected machinery of viewfinders, TV tubes, VCRs, microscopes, stereoscopes—the less we see, the more numbed we become to the joy and the pain of being alive, and the further estranged we become from ourselves and all others.”
The art of observation begins with immersing ourselves in the textures and tones of life. Observation requires us to immerse ourselves in looking and listening without passing judgment on the impressions we collect.
Observation as part of the communicative process is about acknowledging the value of relationships between things that will provide a context for the experiences we have. Sense of place refers to making connections to the impressions we collect. Journalists are not mechanics fixing broken parts. Rather, journalists are storytellers communicating about what it is like to be in the world.
It is through details and context and a sense of place that photojournalists can create images of impact.
Human beings are dependent upon the senses for the impressions we hold of the world around us. We rely on our senses for survival – sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. However, as we develop and refine our craft, there is a tendency to favor one sense over another.
The key to becoming stronger storytellers, through words and images, is to work with all our senses to remember the impressions we experience and collect. As photojournalist we must learn to observe without judging, without letting thought intrude between you and the object. When you see a sunset or a landscape and say, “How beautiful,” you are not immersed in it, and will notice only part of what you might otherwise have seen.
In order to communicate messages effectively or express ourselves fully we have to think about what it means to be an observer. However, we must aknowledge the paradox in the acts of seeing and being seen. In our increasingly visual culture, we are both the observer and observed, the seer and the seen. What could this possibly mean? Are there any consequences implied in the act of observing or of being observed?
Dictionaries offer various meanings for the word “observation” including:
To perceive or notice
To watch attentively
To make a systematic or scientific observation
To watch or be present without participating actively.
Howerver, the observational skills we used in photojournalism suggest the active engagement of all our sensing powers.
The world is a sensual place: we see, hear, feel, smell and taste so that on a number of sensory levels we engage ourselves. Think of the moment you woke up this morning. What were the things you felt, sensed, perceived, and eventually responded? Was it the light coming through a window, the sound of traffic on the street, or the smell of coffee in the air?
Most of the time, I walk through my days unaware of all that is going on around me, out of touch with how I am being affected by what I sense. When I finally slow down to really take in space, sounds, sights, smells, texture and tone, my experiences with that space change. I feel more fully engaged. Observation teaches us to be this way in the world and to have empathy for the things we see and photograph.
There is a clear distinction between looking at something, seeing and observing. Observation is about allowing yourself to become sensitized to the things you are seeing. In other words, observation is about sensitive seeing.
As photographers we are drawn to light and the shape of things. We compose images as we think they might be in our heads and then with our cameras. How many times have we looked at our images and said to ourselves that is not what I saw, that is not what I felt? Becoming a sensitized observer means more than passive seeing––it means entering into a relationship and engagement with the things we see. Observation is experiencing what we see and translating that experience through the words and images that come to us.
How many images of war, famine, natural disaster, poverty, or any other extreme of the human condition have we seen in our lifetimes? I am thinking now of Kevin Carter’s image from Africa of a starving infant with a vulture nearby waiting for death to come.
How many other images like this one have I seen but not been moved or touched by in some way?
Our newspapers, television screens, websites, magazines and books are flooded with such icons of depravity and horror. Observation is part of a process of perception which engages all of your senses, sound, smell, taste, touch, and sight. When you acquire the skills of an observer you will also learn the value of waiting and anticipation. This is important to remember because there are no easy ways to learn how to be careful observers of the world around us. There is no mathematical formula, master plan, blue print or recipe for learning how to see and experience the things we choose to see.
Observation begins with both subconscious and conscious states of begin. We enter a space, connect with, pay attention to, and open ourselves to the hidden dramas of life that otherwise we let slip past us.
In the chaos and confusion of life we are trained from an early age on to focus almost entirely on the outcome of our efforts. No pain no gain. Life in our advanced capitalist consumer-centric society is measured in outcomes: material possessions, wealth, class, status, highest level of education attained, etc. With so much emphasis on producing outcomes in our art or in our daily life we have lost the ability to clearly discern the quality of incomes. We might refer to “incomes” as all those subtle and understated attributes which contribute to the outcomes we produce.
Observation helps us to explore and evaluate the things we are drawn to. As photographers we are moved by an array of ways of knowing the world and experiencing it. We place ourselves in the path of the present to make sense of the path and to glimpse the future. We become aware of space and time in an attempt to capture it, fix it, brand it, and preserve it. This is what an image does––it holds time and space in an illusionary dimension of the two as if it were somehow real. Beneath the surface of this temporal spatial relationship a continuum emerges through our memory of the likeness we view before us.
Observation is a skill we must develop if we want to engage in the world beyond the mere looking at it through a lens.
The images we create of our reality arise through observation and contemplation. Many, many times we fail to capture what we believe to be the essence, understanding, or truth of what we observe through photography on the first attempt. Perhaps this is because what we looking at first, what we glimpse is only a suggestion of something deeper, more profound and more meaningful.
As Franck reminds us there is always “the glaring contrast between seeing and looking-at the world around us is immense; it is fateful. Everything in our society seems to conspire against our inborn human gift of seeing."
Ultimately, learning to observe people, places, and activities in the world can make us better storytellers, communicators, writers and photographers.
February 08, 2007 in Dennis Dunleavy, Education, Internet Learning, Journalism, new technologies, observation, photo collage, photo digital manipulation, photoblogs, photographic ritual, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, signification, Southern Oregon University, teaching, technology, visual journalism education, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, ways of seeing, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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My commentary about the on-going situation at Brooks has made it into the February issue of The Digital Journalist. It's always gratifying to recieve acknowledge from Dirck Halstead and company that I am on the right track with my analysis from time to time.
You'll find David Burnett's photograpy also featured in the issue. In fact, another article about David can be found in the Salt Lake Tribune this weekend titled, Grace Instilled.
The Carnegie-Knight Inititative for the Future of Journalism has recently released a manifesto challenging educators to be at the frontiers journalism.
As the manifesto argues, "It is hard to think of a profession of greater public importance than journalism. What journalists publish and broadcast constitutes the chief means whereby citizens inform themselves about public life in their societies, enabling them to play the role of active participants in democratic life."
It is imperative that higher education responds to training the next generation of journalists in a way that fosters and protects democratic values.
"In today's changing world of news consumption, journalism schools should be exploring the technological, intellectual, artistic, and literary possibilities of journalism to the fullest extent, and should be leading a constant expansion and improvement in the ability of the press to inform the public as fully, deeply, and interestingly as it can about matters of the highest importance and complexity."
As social institutions, public higher education and journalism have been under attack from privatizing forces, cultural changes, and market demands.
Despite the challenges, journalism and higher education have an enormous role to play in an open and respresentative democracy. We must work relentlessly to train our students "to operate at a higher ethical and intellectual standard."
Most of the educators I know epitomize this mission. They are not only committment to teaching basic skill sets, but also the social, economic, ethical, and therotical contexts in which news is produced. As the manifesto suggests, it is incumbent upon educators, who are at the frontiers of journalism, to create, "well-trained, well-educated, honest, trustworthy, curious, intelligent people who have devoted their lives to their profession."
January 29, 2007 in Broadcast Journalism, Carnegie-Knight initiative for the future of journalism, censorship, Citizen journalism, Civil Rights, Dennis Dunleavy, Education, First Amendment, Journalism, Journalism Southern Oregon University, media consolidation, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, Photojournalism, photojournalism education, Southern Oregon University, teaching, visual journalism education | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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The potential of the camera phone image to speak truth to power cannot be underestimated. As James Fallows observes, "History is driven by ideas and passions, and by unforeseeable events....History is also driven by science and technology."
When technology slams headlong into inhumane and unjustice acts, people begin to take notice. Today, we are on the verge of a digital revolution with the emergence of cell phone technologies -- one that can be seen as a positive force used to promote democracy or one that may eventually be used to destroy it.
Pictures from Abu Ghraib of U.S. soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners,the tsunami disaster, the subway bombings in London, the execution of Saddam Hussein, the massacre of Iraqi civilians by U.S. Marines in Haditha, and more recently the photographs of Egyptian police torturing suspects suggests the emergence of a hyper-mediated surveillance society.
The motivation to photograph atrocities by the perpetrators, such as in Abu Ghraib prison, Haditha, and in Egypt indicates how people in positions of power and control blindly operate by a code of conduct that is beyond any law -- human or devine. The soldiers and police making these images possess a sense superiority and impunity toward those they deem to be the enemy. The pictures they make may be made as evidence, entertain, or propaganda.
When 21-year-old Egytian minibus driver Imad Kabir was hung upside down and sodomized, his torturers recorded the proceedings with a camera phone and then transmitted the video to the Kabir's co- workers as a warning. The pictures eventually made their way onto the Internet and two police offers were jailed in the incident.
Originally conceived as an act of oppression against those opposing the government's authority, the Egyptian camera phone images reveal the often rumored and insidious truth about the mistreatment of prisoners. It is extremely difficult for any government to deny such cases of abuse when the evidence appears so indisputable.
The camera phone images we have seen in recent years are glimpses of a world we have heard about but have seldom seen. Images of atrocity and abuse, revealing the darkest side of humanity, speak truth to power as history unfolds before our eyes.
January 19, 2007 in Canon EOS Digital Cameras, censorship, Citizen journalism, Civil Rights, Current Affairs, Dennis Dunleavy, diffusion of innovation, digital cameras, Education, Family Values, First Amendment, images of violence, Internet Learning, Iraq, Iraq War, Israeli Lebanon conflict, Journalism, Journalism Southern Oregon University, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Mobile Journalists, moblogging, Moral complexity, new technologies, photo digital manipulation, photoblogs, photographic ritual, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, pictures of the year, point and shoot cameras, prisoner abuse, propaganda, public domain, public journalism, Saddam Hussein exectuion , signification, Southern Oregon University, technology, visual journalism education, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, visual violence, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Photojournalist David Burnett at the opening reception for his show "Measure of Time" last week in Ashland, Oregon at the Schneider Museum of Art.
Burnett, past winner of the World Press Photo award and other honors, spoke on local National Public Radio member station Jefferson Public Radion during his visit to the campus of Southern Oregon University. You can listen to Burnett's interview with Jefferson Exchange host Jeff Golden here. There are two parts.
Part 1 Interview with David Burnett
Part 2 Interview with David Burnett
January 18, 2007 in Ashland, Oregon, David Burnett, Education, Journalism, Journalism Southern Oregon University, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Southern Oregon University, visual journalism education | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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There is a fascinating debate going on in education these days about how students no longer read as much as they previously had. Culture is apparently evolving away from the written word to something else with the increasing immediacy and impact of the visual that has become so pervasive in society.
A few years ago, I became aware of this trend when only 18 of 78 students actually bought the text book I was teaching from. Now, there could be a lot reasons for the lack of interest in the textbook, especially high prices. Another reason could be disinterest in the subject matter.
Nevertheless, assuming that we are truly moving away from the written text as a primary tool for learning, then, we must ask ourselves what's next?
Jane Healy in "Endangered Minds" observes, "Fast-paced lifestyles, coupled with heavy media diets of visual immediacy, beget brains misfitted to traditional modes of academic learning."
As Fred Guterl argues, "The lure of the visual in today's electronic media, it would seem, is proving too much for the increasingly antiquated pleasures of the written word."
Education has always maintained a somewhat vertical and parochial view of the world in terms of the written word being a more exalted and intellectual form of communication than the visual. After all, hasn't history shown us that writing was a step up from the oral tradition and cave paintings.
Now, educators fear that in the digital universe of camera phones, PDAs, iPods, PlayStations, Hi-Def televisions, and TiVos, we might be headed for some sort of insidious slide back into the cave. The digital universe, for some educators, signifies a life tethered to machines spewing forth visual content. The visual turn amplified in a digital universe suggests the de-evolution of the literate society and a push back toward the immediate gratification of images.
Does a paradigm shift in the ways in which we are informed and entertained represent a threat to democracy and a participatory government? I am inclined to think that the digital universe of the millennial and gizmo generations, those people born from 1985 to present, learn differently than the "bookish" boomers. The key distinction here is to note the differences and then continue to engage each other in teaching and living out what we value.
We just finished this press release for an exciting panel on image ethics for the First Amendment Forum here at Southern Oregon University. We are holding the forum earlier this year so that we can combine it with the opening of an exbition of photojournalism at the Schneider Museum of Art.
Can you believe what you see?
Ashland, Ore. December 12, 2006 – “Can you believe what you see:
The Impact and Integrity of News Media Images in the Digital Age,” will
be the topic for 2007’s Thomas W. Pyle First Amendment Forum at
Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Ore.
Using a grant from The Ashland Daily Tidings, the annual Thomas W. Pyle First Amendment Forum will feature three professional photographers who will explore the veracity and impact of visual images in the digital age on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2007, at 7 p.m., in the Rogue River Room of the Stevenson Union on the SOU campus.
The keynote speaker is Dr. Paul Martin Lester author of “Images that Injure.” Dr. Lester will explore the ethics of visually-mediated messages in an age of increasing digital manipulation.
Subsequently a panel, comprised of national award-winning news photographer, David Burnett; Bob Pennell, the photo editor of The Medford Mail Tribune; and SOU Assistant Professor Dennis Dunleavy will explore the impact and integrity of news photography from the local, national and international perspective.
David Burnett is a recipient of the Magazine Photographer of the Year award; a World Press Photo of the Year winner, and a Robert Capa Award winner from the Overseas Press Club. In 2006, he also won a First Place in the Presidential category in the White House News Photographers' Association.
Bob Pennell is a multiple winner of Oregon AP news photography awards and has been at the Mail Tribune since 1983.
Dr. Dennis Dunleavy joined the SOU Communication Department in 2005. Previously, Dunleavy spent more than 20 years as a photojournalist and correspondent in the U.S., Mexico, and Central America. Dunleavy's blog.
The SOU Department of Communication is also collaborating with the Schneider Museum of Art at SOU to present the collected work of David Burnett: “Measure of Time,” and Dennis Dunleavy: “The Light Becomes Us,” at the Schneider Museum on the SOU campus from Jan. 9 – Feb 24, 2007.
The First Amendment Forum will be taped for broadcast on Rogue Valley Community Television, and David Burnett will be a guest on “The Jefferson Exchange,” on Jefferson Public Radio.
The contact for these events is Dennis Dunleavy, (541) 552-8433; firstname.lastname@example.org.
December 12, 2006 in Ashland, Oregon, David Burnett, Dennis Dunleavy, Education, First Amendment, Internet Learning, Journalism, Journalism Southern Oregon University, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Southern Oregon University, visual journalism education | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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We have a ritual in our family that on a child's birthday we light a special ring of candles.
After the presents are opened and the cake consumed, the candles are lit just before bedtime. Around the ring of light, we tell stories about the child's birth and ask about things that the child hopes for in the future.
Tuesday was a special day not only because it was Liam's birthday, but it was election day. On election day, we waited to drop off our ballots so that Liam could get a feeling for the importance of voting.
Instead of mailing in our ballots we wanted to drive up to the ballot box outside the public library. An elderly woman stood in the rain to help ensure that the ballots were properly sealed and signed. Now, as America wakes up to the results of the midterm elections, I think the lights of hope that we burn for Liam are also lights of hope and determination for this nation.
Photo Credit: Dennis Dunleavy
Like all human endeavors, technology can be like a double-edged sword. There are wonderful things about technology — assuming it is used to improve our lives, help us communicate better, and make our day to day world easier. On the back side of all the positives, however, there is the feeling that in our rush to accept all the changes technology offers we are also missing something.
I think with all the advantages of text and instant messaging, blogging, podcasting, and digital camera phones, society seems to find itself defaulting to the convenience of immediacy over intimacy. Human beings have certain fundamental needs and face-to-face interaction still remains high up on my list of characteristics.
Our fascination with the computer-mediated world we’ve created begins at the earliest of ages through the instant gratification that clicking a keyboard or moving a mouse brings.
More often now, children in wired environments are moving their media consumption from the television to the Internet. Young people develop a sophistication and acumen with the technology that older generations struggle to understand.
Technological literacy in a digitally mediated universe is imperative, but we must also be careful not to jetison some of our antecedent principles and values in the process. What comes to mind, first and foremost, is the notion of civility in how we communicate with one another. Spam — it’s not just another four-letter-word — it’s the idea that we can avoid confronting others in honest and open ways through passive aggressive behaviors.
Like road rage, spam and flame mail is about venting without thinking. This is what technology enables us to do — spew without considering the consequences of our actions. Just ask disgraced politician Mark Foley, R-Fla., about his indulgences with instant messaging and teenage pages in the White House. The point is that immediacy does not automatically tranlate to intimacy. Despite the attraction of instant and auto everything in our lives today we must still practice the discipline of reflection and patience.
Brendan Koerner (2001) in “Getting the news: How technology is revolutionizing the media,” suggests, “….Consumers are not automatons who simply want to be showered with raw data. The media enviornment may be changing at breakneck speed, but some aspects of human nature will be slow to change” (p.9).
The major U.S. news magazines knocked themselves out this week with designs suggesting the slide of the GOP on the political scene in Washington.
Both cover designs are loaded with symbolism which conveys meaning behind the headlines of late.
In the TIME cover, the editors have an elephant walking into darkness, exposing its dirty, flakey posterior to the viewer. Tongue in cheek? Sarcasism? You bet.
For Newsweek, designers went over the top with a superimposed manical-looking Mark Foley peering out as President Bush confidently strides below. The use of the frowning smiley, suggestive of the email icon, anchors the typographic styling.
What is interesting about ideologically motivated design is that in addition to how they can capture an audience's attention, they also tend to blow in the political breeze of perception. The design seems to follow the rhetoric steaming out of Washington with little regard to maintaining any sense of objectivity or balance.
October 15, 2006 in Current Affairs, Dennis Dunleavy, Education, Headlines, illustration, Internet Learning, Journalism Southern Oregon University, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, Photojournalism, Picture Editing, President Bush, Tom Foley, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Photo Credit: Jim Young/Reuters
In a recent survey of blog readers a majority of respondents believe that photo ops constitute a form of manipulation. In the poll (n=380), 22 percent or readers strongly agreed and another 42 percent agreed with the statement "I think photo-ops arranged for the media are a form of manipulation."
It is no secret that a news photograph can convey perspectives, attitudes, and desires more immediately than words. When Yahoo news selected a Rueters image to accompany a story on Bush's conference on school violence, the editors knew what they were doing. The image, a picture made a week earlier in Stockton, California, has all the right stuff. It presents the President in a favorable patriotic light. Using the rule of thirds the photographer carefully frames Bush within a sea of waving flags.
We read pictures literally and symbolically.
In this case, the symbolism easily subsumes the literal meaning of Bush and the flags in the frame. In fact, the crowd of people, no telling exactly no many, become secondary information. It's all about portraying a sense of strength and nationalism here. But what does this image have to do with the President's upcoming conference on school violence?
The trite answer is nothing and everything. The juxtaposition of a week-old photo-op from California on top of a story about Bush's concerns conference are tangential at best. Nevertheless, a careful observer must learn to read between the lines here.
Can images that are juxtaposed against an unrelated text indicate a predisposition on the part of the editors to prime audiences in a particular ideological way?
October 10, 2006 in Bush, Current Affairs, Dennis Dunleavy, digital cameras, Education, George W. Bush, Journalism Southern Oregon University, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, Photoblogging, photoblogs, photographic ritual, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, visual journalism education, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, Yahoo News photos | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Photojournalism has always been about the relationship between light and life. Photojournalism is a complex and fully human way of capturing, describing and explaining to others what words often fail to do. From this perspective, photojournalism signifies a social and empathic visual encounter with "reality," one that is capable of accentuating the textured fabric of the human condition with dignity, grace, and compassion.
The skilled photojournalist responds to the world emotionally and intellectually by documenting people, places, and things with honesty and humility. The power of photojournalism resides in its insistence on being a holistic and humanistic enterprise. The photojournalist, in turn, must be faithful to a moment of truth, as he or she encounters the world. Photojournalism, at its best, must goad the viewer to consider see deeply and consciously into the lives of the poor and the powerful, the living and the dying.
Today, we are socially conditioned to the deluge of photojournalistic impressions that meet the eye daily, from the run-of-the- mill to the iconic. Within our visually pervasive culture, photojournalism remains committed to documenting the immediacy and intimacy of life as it unfolds around the corner and across continents.
Photojournalism is about telling stories with a camera – it is a way of allowing the viewer to see beyond the picture-making process by entering into and connecting with humanity and the world as it is fixed within our collective memory of place and time. The photographer’s eye informs, constructs, and shapes social reality. As eyewitness to the tumult and triumph of human endeavor, major and minor, the photographer’s truth – the image – fixes and mediates a moment of time not only as a representative anecdote as well as a reality.
Photojournalism extends our visual encounters with the world beyond the blare of a quickly forgotten headline or the triviality of a sound bite. The photojournalist’s eye is informed by the principle of the decisive moment, an expression coined by photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson to sum up his feelings about the convergence of critical visual elements in time and space.
As Bresson suggests, “Sometimes there is one unique picture whose composition possesses such vigor and richness, and whose content so radiates outward from it, that this single picture, is a whole story in itself. But this rarely happens.”
Most photojournalists develop the skills needed to capture the decisive moment through practice, for the formula for constructing such pictures, is chiefly governed by an individual’s ability to anticipate and react to what is placed before lens. For this reason, much of what viewers receive as news is predicated on the capture of a decisive moment – the peak, climatic, and otherwise dramatic composition representative of the event.
Since the beginning of modern photojournalism, about the time of the death of the original LIFE magazine in the early 1970s, the decisive moment has driven photojournalism education to a large extent. Students have been pushed to think that that if they missed the "moment" they missed the story.
Albeit a very salient concept, training photojournalists to think in terms of the decisive moment has meant less time could be spent on understanding communicative processes, ethics and emerging technologies.
With a rare exception, much of photojournalism education has concerned itself with the application of desired skill sets, such as the decisive moment. Little attention, regrettably, has been directed toward the training photographers to think and act like reporters. In addition, little attention has been given to training photographers to understand the power and moral agency of their relationship with society.
Fortunately, photojournalism education has been changing in recent years. Many educators now have advanced graduate degrees and work toward integrating theory into their applied courses. More schools also require students to undertake writing and editing courses.
From this perspective, photojournalists will continue to be more ethically and critically trained -- they will be better able to attend to the business of visual storytelling in more meaningful ways.
September 17, 2006 in Dennis Dunleavy, Education, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, Southern Oregon University, visual journalism education | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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What do news diva Katie Couric (above) and a model posing for a
picture (below) from one of the latest in a long line of
point-and-shoot digital cameras have in common?
The reality is that both images have been altered significantly. We are looking at different forms of manipulation. Both pictures have been digitally altered. The surprise here is that the alterations of the picture showing the model was actually done inside the camera.
Couric's image was manipulated in post-production process to make her look thinner. Couric is in good company. Other celebs such as Oprah Winfry, Martha Stewart, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Kate Winslet have also gotten the Photoshop slim fast treatment during the past few years.
This is the way our culture operates -- women are suppose to appear as waifish as paper plates otherwise men will not find them attractive. Men, on the other hand, are support to look manly -- tough yet intelligent.
When was the last time someone the likes of Rush Limbaugh or Bill O'Reilly had a little Photoshop tummy tuck?
Now, with Hewlett Packard's slimming feature everyone can be just like Katie, after Photoshop of course.
In HP's latest sales pitch for its digital cameras there is a series of step by step slides that takes the viewer through the simplicity of the "slimming" feature. Losing weight has never been easier or as surreal.
So, what do Couric and the HP ad hand have in common?
To begin with these two examples illustrate the pervasive nature of image manipulation has become in our culture. Why should anyone care if a news image is altered if they have already have the capacity to mess with just about any picture, inside and outside of the camera?
With the ability to alter reality in an instance with the touch of a button -- the digital camera requires no skill in altering a person's appearance -- I am reminded of the French theorist Jean Baudrilliard's classic work on the notion of simulacra. The term simulacra refers to an unsatisfactory imitation of reality – something where only a copy of something exists. There is no original.
Society has arrived at the age of the simulacrum -- a time where the image, according to Baudrillard:
Is the reflection of a basic reality.
Masks and perverts a basic reality.
Masks the absence of a basic reality.
Bears no relation to any reality whatever: it is its own pure simulacrum.
Once stripped of its original truth, the sign and the reality it is imbued it with have no equivalence. This imbroglio -- this inability to distinguish fact from fiction -- bears down on us with tremendous force.
August 30, 2006 in camera phones, Current Affairs, Dennis Dunleavy, digital cameras, Education, Journalism Southern Oregon University, Katie Couric, new technologies, photo digital manipulation, Photoblogging, photoblogs, photographic ritual, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, Picture Editing, Southern Oregon University, teaching, technology, visual journalism education, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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The photograph exists in the world as a real object.
The idea that we can hold on to experiences through the fixing of a moment in time as a photograph is compelling. The act of making images is ritualized by patterns of behaviors.
The social functions of a photograph are diverse and numerous. The social function of the photograph performs a variety of personal and social needs including the need, to inform, evident, validate, entertain, criticize, report, illuminate, or instruct.
Photography can become a ritualized activity because many of the processes that go into the making of a picture appear automatic and second nature.
At the same time, we shouldn't confuse how the term ritual as primarily been connected to religious ceremony. In this context, we are extending the original ideas about ritual to extend to daily life.
Ever since the Kodak One camera in the late 1800s, the visual behavior associated with making images have become part of every day life – with one hand we reach for a Kleenex to wipe the tears from our eyes, while with the other hand we reach for a camera to record the moment. There is no denying the emotional associations that move us to document moments in time.
For Catherine Bell (1992), A ritual may be “described as particularly thoughtless action -- routinized, habitual, obsessive, or mimetic-and therefore the purely formal, secondary, and mere physical expression of logically prior ideas.” In photography, ritual refers primarily to those activities that become embedded in all stages of the picture making process including, pre-visualization, interaction with subjects, composition, technical considerations, image capture, and post-production.
Thinking of photography as an activity guided by embedded ritual -- the interaction between photographer and subject, pose, gesture, shot, another pose, another shot, edit, presentation – all suggests patterns of behavior that govern expectations and obligations in the process.
Photographic ritual create conditions of knowing and being.
All of the expectations and obligations associated with the making of a picture illustrate the ritualized nature of photography.
When I make a picture, I expect it to come out, be of reasonably high quality, capture a moment that is meaningful to me, and represent what I am looking at accurately. Therefore, there are certain routines I engage in to make sure that my expectations are met.
In terms of obligation, most of what I feel toward my subject comes through the picture I make. I feel obligated to make a picture that the subject will be happy with (this is in a personal context, not necessarily in a photojournalistic context). I feel obligated to build a rapport with the person I am photographing that honors the individual when possible.
August 27, 2006 in camera phones, Dennis Dunleavy, digital cameras, Documentary Photography, Education, Internet Learning, Journalism Southern Oregon University, photo digital manipulation, Photoblogging, photoblogs, photographic ritual, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, ritual, scrapbooks, semiotics, signification, Southern Oregon University, teaching, technology, visual journalism education, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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The last few weeks have proved to be quite troubling for many observers of the media, especially the field of photojournalism.
The level of public scrutiny now given to images by the general public, especially on the Internet, is unprecedented. Political interests on all sides of the Middle East conflict are holding the social conscious of this nation hostage. Increasingly, audiences are called upon to become more visually literate when interpreting news images. News photography, which at one time maintained at least the perception of validity and truthfulness, is being undermined by a growing throng of disbelievers.
During the first two weeks of fighting between Hezbollah and Israel, media coverage has become suspect as cases of photo-digital manipulation, events staged for the camera, and captioning errors come more fully to light. One blog, Zombietime, encourages readers to consider the importance of understand how images can be manipulated. The site offers tips on identifying four kinds of photographic fraud and lists the Associated Press, Reuters, and The New York Times as perpetrators.
Zombietime’s analysis of news photography concludes four types of common manipulations:
1. Digitally manipulating images after the photographs have been taken.
2. Photographing scenes staged by Hezbollah and presenting the images as if they were of authentic spontaneous news events.
3. Photographers themselves staging scenes or moving objects, and presenting photos of the set-ups as if they were naturally occurring.
4. Giving false or misleading captions to otherwise real photos that were taken at a different time or place.
The speed and immediacy of the Internet enables critics, on the left and the right of center, to identity, denounce, and defend news imagery that would otherwise go unnoticed by the masses. News organizations are responding to catch and punish any transgressors that undermine the integrity of the Fourth Estate, but they may be too late.
A recent analysis of how the media was manipulated after the Israeli bombing of Qana Lebanon illustrates this point brilliantly. In a short video the German news magazine Zapp shows how one rescuer, referred to as the Green Helmet, directs coverage of the events for the international press. Did Hezbollah choreograph the aftermath of the bombing to solicit outrage and sympathy in the Arab world? Many people believe that wide-scale manipulation of the press corps was and continues to be a reality.
The big question now is what happens to our historic collective memory if the images we view are continually the subject of disbelief? Will we become a nation of hate-mongering cynics?
For Hardt (1999), “Photographs, like all cultural products, have conditions and contexts that are based on historically determined cultural conventions, forms, beliefs, and perceptions.”
Despite the current uproar concerning the veracity of photojournalistic practices, there is still the question of how these images, manipulated or not, impact foreign policy decision. Is there anyway to truly calculate the impact pictures have on public perception? Was Israel's cease-fire after the bombing of Qana a sign that the government was reacting to outside pressure after millions of people around the world were subjected to pictures of the dead, especially children?
Following how the media covers an issue like the present conflict in the Middle East is a little like watching a tennis match. One side hits the ball and the audience turns its collective head toward where the ball might land. Then, there is the return, and the audience is driven back. This is the way news images are presented to us. One series of pictures showing the news of the day, all of them fairly similar in content.
Washington Post writer Peter Baker (2006) observes, “With each new scene of carnage in southern Lebanon, outrage in the Arab world and Europe has intensified against Israel and its prime sponsor, raising the prospect of a backlash resulting in a new Middle East quagmire for the United States, according to regional specialists, diplomats and former U.S. officials.”
This summer our Violence and Visual Culture class at Southern Oregon University tracked the first two weeks of the conflict in four newspapers. Students counted the number, size, placement, source, and characteristics of the content from July 14 through July 31 in The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Portland Oregonian, and the Medford Mail Tribune.
Some of the questions we were trying to answer included:
Are there significantly more images showing dead and dying Lebanese civilians than Israeli civilians? If so, why? If there are more pictures of dead Lebanese than Israeli would world outcry change policy?
The content analysis conducted by the class examines only the beginning of the conflict -- a period of time when most the pictorial representations of the destruction in Lebanon and Israel occurred.
A total of 186 images in all four papers, with the lion's share (n=105) depicted in The New York Times.
Sixty-nine images depicted Lebanese civilians, while only 26 showed Israel civilians. In another area, 40 pictures showed Israel soldiers, while two images of Hezbollah fighters and 2 of Lebanese soldiers were used.
Can any conclusions be drawn from looking at images that play on the emotions of viewers?
Here are some data (early and unscrubbed) from the analysis. It would be interesting to have an online conversation about the possible implications of the role of images on public perception and foreign policy.
August 11, 2006 in adnan hajj qana,, blogging, Current Affairs, data-mining, Dennis Dunleavy, digital cameras, Education, Gary Hershorn Reuters, images of violence, Internet Learning, Iraq, Iraq War, Israeli Lebanon conflict, Journalism, Journalism Southern Oregon University, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, Moral complexity, new technologies, New York Times front paqe, photo digital manipulation, Photo-ops, Photoblogging, photoblogs, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, propaganda, Reuters, reuters adnan hajj, Southern Oregon University, teaching, technology, visual journalism education, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, visual violence, war photography, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Sometimes our ways of looking at things become so familiar to us that we miss the bigger picture.
In class, we discussed a content analysis we had started earlier in the week, which evaluates the impact of images on foreign policy in the Israeli-Lebanese conflict.
As a way of explaining the nature of content categories, I went Online to compare pictures on two Websites. The first Website selected was Al Jazeera and the second was Fox News. Both sites offer photo slideshows of the conflict and gave us a chance to deliberate about content categories.
Some of the categories we developed included civilians, soldiers, structural damage, location, focal length, and other dimensions.
What we discovered in the process of physically counting the size, placement, location, and content of each image from the newspapers was that many of our early assumptions and perceptions were false. But, more about that later.
I am fascinated with how we might make meanings from the two images above.
The top picture from the Al Jazeera Website shows an Israeli tank on the move with a stop sign in the foreground. The bottom image, from Fox News, shows a bombed out building in Beirut with another stop sign in the foreground.
What meanings could be given to having stop signs foregrounding the primary signifiers – the tank or the buildings? Could the stop signs merely be convenient visual elements to help make the pictures more aesthetic or could we read a bit of the photographer's personal opinion in the frame? If the latter is true, are there any implications in understanding photographic veracity?
First and foremost, there are many possible readings to any picture.
If we take the commonsense viewpoint the content in these two frames are simply what they represent – A tank approaching an intersection with a stop sign or a stop sign in an urban center with rubble in the background.
From the commonsense viewpoint we rely on the literal meaning of what is signified, and we do not read any more into the frame than what it tells us denotatively. The commonsense viewpoint allows us to avoid thinking about the photographer’s motivations and opinions. After all, if the pictures were to read from a political viewpoint, then, they would probably belong on the opinion page and not considered straight news.
Moving beyond the commonsense viewpoint, we might arrive at something more oppositional and controversial.
From the perspective of the Arab world, the stop sign and the tank may signify a demand, plea, or suggestion. “Stop the tanks.”
From the perspective of the Western world, the stop sign and the building also connote a similar message. “Stop the bombing.”
What makes the relationship between the signifier and signified in news imagery more salient are the words that anchor meaning to the pictures in the form of captions. Without the textual interpretations captured in cutlines, we are left to our devices to make sense of the scenes. However, when we read what the pictures represent for the journalists who assign primary readings to them, everything changes.
In this week’s Newsweek magazine, Evan Thomas and Andrew Romano look at how myths are made in our culture. Myths, the writers argue, are not about lies, but more about narratives and stories that explain realities.
“Myths are a peculiar hybrid of truth and falsehood, resentments and ambitions, dreams and dread. We all have personal myths running through our heads, and some chapters would withstand fact checking while others would fail miserably.”
How do images contribute to the human proclivities of mythmaking?
I am inclined to believe that images, especially news images, play a very important role in creating and maintaining myths in a visually dominant culture. Because pictures play upon our emotions as well as our reason, it seems only natural to suspect a link between how some images may build meaning that go far beyond the original occurrence.
August 04, 2006 in Current Affairs, Dennis Dunleavy, Education, Internet Learning, Israeli Lebanon conflict, Journalism Southern Oregon University, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, myth, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, Southern Oregon University, teaching, visual journalism education | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Yesterday, the radio program Open Source with Christopher Lydon, jumped into an issue that I have been writing about over the past week -- images and the politics of images as they impinge on public consciousness as well as foreign policy.
Here are some of the questions Lydon poses to his guests , Marc Lynch, Annia Ciezadlo, and James Der Derian about the current Israeli-Lebanese war:
1. How important are the optics of this war, and who’s managing them better?
2. What links can we draw from the outcome of the actual fighting to media coverage, public opinion and ultimately diplomacy?
3. Is Hezbollah’s goal in this conflict territory and a prisoner exchange, or is it sympathy and support, the kind that rushes in from the wider Muslim world as the images from Qana begin to spread?
4. Children are dying in apartment blocks in Haifa, too; how does Israel win the diplomatic game when it’s fighting to a draw on the ground and losing the war of images?
Each question requires detailed analysis, but what I would like to point out here is the notion of visual determinancy and the limitations of photography to convey the moral complexities of conflict.
Fortunately, an expanding body of literature in the field of images of war may help to more insightfully explicate the issues at hand.
The importance of the optics of this war, or any modern conflict, is increasingly obvious to many observers as well as foreign policy makers. David Perlmutter, in his book Photojournalism and Foreign Policy, addresses this issue extensively. For Perlmutter, “Sometimes a general ‘CNN effect’ subsuming the flood of imagery and its instantaneousness and vividness is ascribed as being able to influence, affect, or drive foreign policy” (5).
Certainly images from Vietnam, such as the street execution of a Viet Cong prisoner or the naked child fleeing her burning village after a Napalm air strike, contributed to U.S. foreign policy decision following a buildup of public outcry against the war. In addition, China was force to reconsider how it was dealing with the democracy movement at Tiananmen in 1989 following the release of a protestor standing in front of a line of tanks. Further, in1994, pictures showing dead U.S. soldiers being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu by an angry mob became visual determinants in how that conflict was being managed.
The optics of war is driven by the images immediacy, intensity, and intimacy. Anchored by the saliency of headlines, images of war take on an ideological dimension that is often perceived as more forceful than written accounts.
According to Perlmutter:
News photographs are remarkably selective windows on the world. The myriad other vista of reality and events that occur beyond the range of the lens, the eye of the photographer, or the scope of the newscast or newspaper, are ignored.
Not only are images selective windows on the world, they comprise an ideological constellation of meaning that contribute to how we think, feel, and act. Pictures, as representative anecdotes of an event, may help to sum up an event but they may not move us beyond looking.
One explanation in terms of who is managing the optics or war better – Israel or Hezbollah – must explore the emotional and intellectual appeal of the content. Pictures of Israeli artillery firing off salvos against an unseen enemy do not have the same emotional and intellectual appeal as images of dead Lebanese children.
As Sontag contends, "Photographs objectify: they turn an event or a person into something that can be possessed. And photographs are a species of alchemy, for all that they are prized as a transparent account of reality" (Regarding the Pain of Others, page 81).
The frequency and immediacy of pictures of dead children elicit sympathy as well as outrage from viewers in ways that pictures of Israeli troop movements, artillery, or the distant shots buring buildings in Beirut cannot.
In this case, the repetition and numbers of images depicting the human cost of Israeli air strikes and bombardment allows for Hezbollah to take control in what is becoming a war of images as it is a war of fighting armies.
From an academic perspective, claiming that Hezbollah is winning a propaganda war based on anecdotal evidence is unsatisfactory. What needs to be examined here is a direct relationship or correlation between public opinion and the number, placement, and frequency of such images?
Photography, as a subtractive medium, can restrict our understanding what is happening by constraining our view of reality. When we are bombarded by pictures of dead Lebanese children our visual activity becomes concentrated by the emotional impact of an event framed by the photographer.
At the same time, news organizations visually respond predictably to the stories they put on their front pages. For example, most of Today's Front Page show an overwhelming number of newspapers using cliche hot weather pictures -- mostly people throwing water over their heads. In the history of modern newspaper design images reflect the spotlighting or highlighting of one series of events over another. In this instance, the picture may not be the same, but repeatedly the message is.
The majority of these pictures are showing us little other than something we already know, but nevertheless, editors feel obligated to visually represent the moment that otherwise could be said in one word -- HOT. The pictures, in this case, apologize for a lack of news beyond what most people are already experiencing.
Getting back to the problem of analyzing images from the Israeli-Lebanese conflict, I think it is important to remind ourselves of what Sontag observes:
"Central to modern expectations, and modern ethical feeling, is the conviction that war is an aberration, if an unstoppable one. That peace is the norm, if an unattainable one. This, of course, in not the way war has been regarder throughout history. War has been the norm and peace the exception" (74).
Considering this perspective, the visual determinancy of the frame contributes in many ways to this expectation -- that peace is the norm, or at least it is something that "ought" to be.
Looking again at the questions:
What links can we draw from the outcome of the actual fighting to media coverage, public opinion and ultimately diplomacy?
To be honest, without actually physically counting the number of images used, and without considering the content, placement, size, caption, and headline, we can conclude very little. All we are left with is an impression or the sense that there is a link between what the images show us and the public's reaction to them. Our interpretation of an image is fallible, just like any experience -- direct or indirect [thank you Charles for the clarification].
Since this conflict continues to escalate, it become imperative to suspend our inclination to rush to some conclusion in terms of impacting foreign policy. At the same time, clearly Israeli 48-hour cease-fire could be linked to the flood of gore and destruction after killing 56 people in Lebanon.
International condemnation of the attack in this case has given the Israeli government pause in rethinking how it manages its message in the foreign press. This can be seen already by examining the number of stories turning the violence back on Hezbollah's alledged use of civilians as human shield. Unfortunately, we haven't seen any pictures of guerrillas holding civilians gunpoint while they position their rockets against Israeli targets. All we get in the media is fingerpointing on both sides.
At issue is whether we can accept the commonsense viewpoint offer to us from one side or another. Ultimately, without having any visual evidence that this is the case we are left with only words to decide what is right and truthful.
August 02, 2006 in blogging, Christopher Lydon, Current Affairs, David Perlmutter, Dennis Dunleavy, Education, Headlines, images of violence, Internet Learning, Iraq, Iraq War, Israeli Lebanon conflict, Journalism, Journalism Southern Oregon University, Lebanon, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, Moral complexity, new technologies, New York Times front paqe, Photoblogging, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, propaganda, radio open source, Southern Oregon University, Susan Sontag, teaching, technology, The Washington Post, visual journalism education, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, visual violence, war photography, Web/Tech, Weblogs, Wikipedia | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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August 01, 2006 in blogging, Current Affairs, Dennis Dunleavy, Education, First Amendment, intellectual property, Internet Learning, Iraq, Iraq War, Israeli Lebanon conflict, Journalism, Journalism Southern Oregon University, Lebanon, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, new technologies, Personal Media, Photoblogging, photoblogs, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, semiotics, Southern Oregon University, teaching, technology, visual journalism education, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, Web/Tech, Weblogs, Wikipedia | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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The question of “What Next Lebanon?” was answered just hours after editors at the Washington Post wrote the headline and selected a signifying moment to accompany it for Sunday's paper. However, the “what’s next” has already happened – death and more death, mostly civilians, and mostly children. Fifty-six people.
It is Sunday afternoon and the news reports from Lebanon are increasingly grim. As I write this post, I imagine the photo and news editors at many of the nation’s newspapers shifting through the hundreds of pictures being transmitted back by satellite across the planet. I imagine how one or two pictures will come to signify what is being reported as the bloodiest day in the two-weeks of fighting being Hezbollah and Israel.
But here we are stuck with the larger rhetorical question -- "What next Lebanon?" and its visual referent. More than 60 years ago, Alfred North Whitehead observed that symbolism is fallible, whereas direct experience is infallible. Yet, we cannot escape the symbolism embedded in words and images of war.
Symbolism is fallible because it works within a system of notions. As Whitehead contends, symbolism can induce actions, feelings, emotions, and beliefs about things.
"The human mind is functioning symbolically when some components of its experience elicit consciousness, beliefs, emotions, and usages, respecting other components of its experience."
The photographer is positioned in such a way as to maximize experience so that the symbolism is both explicitly and implicitly caught in a fragment of time. In Lebanon the symbolism of a devasted urban landscape is often juxtaposed in the Western media against the symbolism of Israeli artillery wrapped in smoke. In Lebanon, a lone figure negotiates his or her way through an agonized frame of twisted, smoldering metal. The symbolic, however, is socially and culturally constructed and must therefore be learned to make any sense.
The symbolism of "What Next Lebanon" anchors in our mind an image of the past, present, and future. We read through the literal nature of the picture presented to us to make inferences and associations. This is the way our mind works. We have a catalog of images in our memory banks to draw on -- Kosovo, Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Haiti, El Salvador, and this latest picture of Lebanon burning no longer surprises or shocks us.
July 30, 2006 in Current Affairs, Dennis Dunleavy, Education, images of violence, Internet Learning, Israeli Lebanon conflict, Journalism Southern Oregon University, Media Criticism, Media Manipulation, Moral complexity, photoblogs, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, semiotics, signification, Southern Oregon University, The Washington Post, visual journalism education, visual violence, war photography, Washington Post, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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In a one-two punch of emotion and despair, the insane and unjust reality of war hit home in yesterday's New York Times. Look carefully at the juxtaposing forces of signification on display in the full-page reproduction, left, and then move in for a closer study of the signified on the right.
How is it possible to fully understand the power of images? How can one poignant moment compare to another?
In our class Sex, Violence and Visual Culture this summer at Southern Oregon University we have started analyzing images from a social semiotic perspective. Social semiotics can be a useful in evaluating the meanings by questioning "commonsense" views of the world. By understanding what we see, as Jack Solomon observes, commonsense views of the world become "habitual opinions and perspectives of the tribe."
Using this approach, we examine the social and cultural constructions of reality that are presented to us as "commonsense" news. In his book "Signs of the Times," Solomon reminds us that cultures conceal ideologies as something made to appear natural.
Although tempted to understand the potential of seeing as limitless we are still very much constrained by the accumulation of social and cultural taboos, myths, filters, and semiotic codes.
Signs are codes imbued with meaning that help us function in the world. For example, traffic lights are sign systems that convey meaning through colors to organize the chaos of driving down a street – green (go), yellow (warning), red (stop).
Words are signs within a system of language. One person may call Iraqi insurgents “freedom fighters”, while others label them “terrorists”. Meanings become embedded in our cultural and collective memory through repetition and recall.
There is much to explore in the juxtaposition of the two images on the front of The New York Times in terms of how reality is filtered, screened, and coded for us. The Israeli soldiers grieving for a fallen comrade in the picture above symbolizes more than the death of a combatant. The picture signifies a turning point in the conflict that is supported by headlines and text. We perceive the violence that this image re-presents for us as a cultural barometer – something Solomon contends marks, “the dynamic moment of social history.”
The violence of the conflict becomes filtered through a lens of what "naturally" follows conflict -- death and destruction. Prehaps the commonsense view I am resisting here is that the picture pleads with me to accept the consequences of a war that will not be resolved by the rhetoric of peace accords and cease-fires.
This point of view becomes even more important as my eyes move downward to see a Palestinian man buried a baby. We can see her tiny face framed by the traditional burial shroud. We can see the face of the man lowering the body to rest. The man is wearing a T-shirt with the words (another sign) selling T-Mobile… and we stop to pause for a second. We reflect on the meanings of these images – the dead baby and the man in the T-Mobile shirt.
Now, this is only one possible reading out of many, and this is the point of what happens in the signifying process. What we need to remember is that the meaning of an object does not reside in the object itself but in the interactions and discourse surrounding it. Many people may make little of the connection between how the child died and the man with the T-Mobile shirt. At the same time, others see the coincidence as a strange juxtaposition of contrasting ideas.
How do we learn to teach ourselves to question the “commonsense” view of what we are presented with as news?
The picture presents me with a puzzle of conflicting signifiers -- The dead baby and the T-shirt promoting high technology. I must work to decode the separate meanings and then somehow pull them together to construct a deeper understanding of the unsettling realities. I must work, therefore, to decode the "commonsense" and naturalize view of a world that becomes filtered through a system of signs legitimized as news.
"Globalization is often celebrated as an advance of human freedom in which individuals are ever freer to lead fives of their own choosing. Transnational flows of money, goods, and ideas, it is argued, will accompany an increasingly liberal international order in which individuals can participate in a global economy and culture."
David Singh Grewal, Network Power and Globalization, Ethics & International Affairs, Vol. 17, 2003.
Dyadic relationships such as signifier and signified produce meaning as a sign.
Signifer = object
Signified = meaning
Together, the signifier and the signified produce a sign.
baby in death shroud = signified
dead baby killed by Israeli forces = signified
Taken together I interpret the meaning of what I see as
Civilian casualities as a sign of conflict.
At the same time, another layer of signification is added to the process as we evaluate the meaning of the man's T-shirt within the context of the conflict.
July 28, 2006 in Current Affairs, Dennis Dunleavy, Education, images of violence, Internet Learning, Iraq, Iraq War, Israeli Lebanon conflict, Journalism, Journalism Southern Oregon University, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, photo digital manipulation, photography, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, propaganda, semiotics, signification, teaching, visual journalism education, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, visual violence, war photography, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Award-winning Charlotte Observer photojournalist Patrick Schneider has been fired.
Today, Rick Thames, the paper’s editor, dashed off an apology for his readership, while summarily firing Schneider with a curt one-line dismissal.
According to Thames:
In the original photo, the sky in the photo was brownish-gray. Enhanced with photo-editing software, the sky became a deep red and the sun took on a more distinct halo.
Thames’ action is as much about saving face in an industry plagued by public distrust than it is about cleaning house. Given Schneider’s history with prior questions about manipulating pictures, Thames didn’t have much of a choice – the incident just gave him an opportunity to stand on the pretense of upholding journalistic integrity.
Just about the only thing a newspaper has left to court readers is the sense that what gets published is reported as accurately as possible.
Schneider’s predicament is less about misleading readers and more about misjudging editorial oversight.
This isn’t the first time Schneider has gotten into hot water for doctoring pictures. In 2003, the North Carolina Press Photographers Association (NCPPA) stripped Schneider of several awards he won for news pictures after the organization had determined excessive adjustments were made to the backgrounds of images.
Thames’ reaction to this current incident is one based primarily on fear.
The chief concern here is one of maintaining a perception in the public’s eye that journalism is somehow bias-free, and those that break from proscribed norms will be punished.
It is interesting to reflect on just how limited our understanding of what counts for journalistic ethics in this country. Editors use a rather narrow definition that applies mostly to the practice of constructing and correcting images. What the public isn’t privileged to is how assignments are conceived, what constitutes news, and how news is constructed for us.
Editors are conspicuously sensitive when it comes to the altering of pictures in Photoshop, but hardly raise an eyebrow when the pictures produced are actually sophisticated visual constructions, i.e., photo-ops, that push a particular agenda. Isn’t a “grip and grin” or “shin plaster” picture a type of manipulation as well -- be it the grand opening of a local hardware store or the kick off of some governor’s race?
Photographers are constantly being manipulated by political and economic interests, yet the only time they risk getting fired is when they refuse to cater to the overbearing demands of a public relations flack.
The big question now is whether or not the punishment fits the crime. Unfortunately for Schneider, the editors may be applying antecedent conventions to a medium that is constantly changing. The guidelines for what is acceptable in terms of post-production processes were drawn from previous practices that may no longer be all together relevant in an age of the seamless digital workflow.
What was Schneider up to when he adjusted the colors to reflect what he thought he saw through his lens? Tweaking the color to enhance the narrative qualities of images may be thought of as something akin to how a writer may use an adverb in a news story. Adverbs are generally those descriptive “ly” words that can get writers into trouble for injecting personal opinion.
What Schneider was doing to his image was adding a few “ly” words to a frame that may not have been as lively as it could have been. Where were the editors before the picture was published? Shouldn't they also be held accountable for letting the picture slip through the fact-checking process. Was Schneider's sky a misrepresented fact or a metaphoric device?
The editors believe that Mr. Schneider's manipulation of the image was in violation of the newspaper's policy on accurately reporting the news. Do using adverbs in a news story change the accuracy of a story? Not always, but they often do express the writer’s personal opinion.
What is clear to me is that the editor, not the photographer, has the ultimate power as judge and jury when it comes to determining what is real or not real in the newsroom. Somehow Schneider, by adjusting the color of the sky, allowed his opinion to creep into his re-presentation or interpretation of a news event just like a writer may have the urge to fatten up a thought with a few extra adverbs or descriptive adjectives.
Apparently, the editors in Charlotte are serious about holding feet to the fire when it comes to hyperbolic and excessive expression – textual and visual.
In this case, Thames may feel that he is protecting the interests of the newspaper by dumping a photographer who stepped a little too carelessly across the slippery ethical morass of news judgment, but then again, he may have only won a skirmish, not the war. Instead of firing Schneider, maybe the newspaper should invest in a little re-education, sort of like what you have to go through when you get a speeding ticket. Nevertheless, what is clear is that Schneider pushed the limits, and his luck, just a little too far this time.
For more on this story see:
July 28, 2006 in Charlotte Observer photojournalist Patrick Schneider, Current Affairs, Dennis Dunleavy, Education, Internet Learning, Journalism, Journalism Southern Oregon University, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, photo digital manipulation, Photo-ops, photoblogs, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, propaganda, Southern Oregon University, teaching, technology, visual journalism education, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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