POSSIBLY the Best of 2006

Yesterday I received a Fedex envelope from Mexico, and within it was a bright yellow giftwrap containing a shrinkwrap containing Mark Alor Powell’s book V.I.P. (Mark is also known as “locaburg” on flickr). It’s only March but I’m considering it a Best of 2007 already.

At least I managed to pull-open the shrinkwrap! Far too often in 2006, I compulsively purchased books that never had much of a life past the point of purchase. This is especially true of art books that I purchased while traveling. I like the idea of buying local-artist books, but when it comes to taking the time to dig into them…. they often get the short shrift.

Part of this may be that when I’m heading home they get buried in my luggage, then once home they go straight to the bookshelves where they’re forgotten. But I’m making excuses. A lot of them sit out in plain sight for a long while.

Here are some of the books that I bought in 2006 that I was sure I wanted to read but still haven’t done so. Most I probably paged through for two minutes… some, sadly, are still in the bag:

  • Absolut Viking - Lill-Ann Chepstow-Lusty (okay, it’s in Norwegian)
  • Swedish NationalMuseum Catalog
  • Small Wars - An-My Lê
  • Excuse Me - Keisuke Nagoshi (text in Japanese)
  • Capturing Light - Drew Heath Johnson (okay, a gift)
  • Saga - Arno Rafael Minkkinen
2 min read

Slighting the Hand

Iz has been recently reading parts of Seth Godin’s Purple Cow, which reminded me of another later Godin book, All Marketers Are Liars. Godin includes along the way a chart kind of like the one below, which he asserts represents the “traditional” value curve associated with industrial products:

GodinChart1957.jpg

2 min read

Nub is in the Details

This is a little game development (or general graphics) tip that I’ve been thinking about for the past couple of nights, with additional applications for photographic and other images.

It’s really a simple observation, followed by some implementation tricks. The dumb observation is that people like noisy pictures. This has been well known, of course, in famous older papers like Rob Cook’s 1985/86 paper Stochastic Sampling in Computer Graphics (PDF). And for many years photographers have been keen on using grain as a means to elicit a sense of sharpness that may be actually greater than what’s really in the picture. This isn’t really news, but in playing with noise I’ve found a really simple trick or two that have pretty broad uses.

First, we’re going to make a texture.

5 min read

Is Photography Inherently Humanizing? (II)

Closed railway gate into North Korea, 2003

Part 2 Part I is here.

Marc Hauser is a professor at Harvard’s Deptartment of Cognitive Evolution (a fully different person from photographer Marc Hauser), and his recent book Moral Minds is chock full of morality tests. These tests take the form of little thought experiments, similar to those math “word problems” of trains leaving Chicago and Philadelpha at the same time at such-and-such a speed. Unlike the meeting of two fixed-speed trains, however, these problems don’t have fixed answers — rather, they are presented as a means for the person taking the test to shine some light into the internal nature of their own moral sense.

8 min read

Is Photography Inherently Humanizing? (I)

IMG_0354.psd Part 1

One of the most difficult aspects surrounding the practice of war photography (and other “socially concerned” photography, as exemplified by, say, Salgado’s gold miner photos) is that almost universally, the stated aim of photgraphers who pursue that vocation is that they desire an end to war — a specific war, or all wars. As has been pointed out my a number of detractors, most prominently Susan Sontag, there’s little evidence to show that photography has done much of anything to stop wars.

The 2007 World Press Photo awards have been in announced in the past couple of days, and it’s no surprise that the dominant award winners — especially in “singles” — are of combat and its aftermath. The World Press Photo of the Year itself is one: Spencer Platt’s celebrated shot of a group of well-heeled and comopolitan young Lebanese cruising through post-airstrike destruction in their red convertible, one of them sourly fiddling with her celphone camera.

3 min read