Winner Take All

Tokyo (C) K. Bjorke

Three rolls Tri-X, Rodinal 1+50, 12:45.

Mason Resnick, who put together the now-fairly-dormant website Black and White World, is today busy as managing editor over at Popular Photography & Imaging Magazine. This month the magazine contains a feature on Street Photography. As a web-only extra feature, Mason sent out a short questionaire to the featured photographers — the answers amount to a set of short interviews with nine street snappers (Mason included himself in their number). Among the nine were two from the StreetPhoto mailing list — its founder John Brownlow (who also included a pitch for Bee in his answers) and John Beeching. All of the rest, save Resnick himself, were photographers whose work can be found on in-public.com.

One question in the interviews concerned sales. To no great surprise, there’s not much of a market for street and urban photography, even as the prices of prints by shooters like Diane Arbus and (not really a street shooter, but how would you describe him?) Andreas Gursky go through the ceiling. Everyone in Pop Photo’s list was subsidizing their “real” photography through other jobs, ranging from photojournalist to courier to screenwriter. The few people who were actually selling (a few) street photos seemed to be doing so entirely through in-public.com’s visibility.

2 min read

Wake Up Call

Demilitarized Zone, 2003 (C) K. Bjorke </a>Yesterday I intended to write about some vague notion connecting suburban anthropology and focal lengths. It’ll have to wait — a day of illness knocked me down and I barely left the house.

I did have the computer around though, and between working on some 3D models I got a chance to look at the April issue of The Digital Journalist, which contains a few items about the new New York Times contract for freelancers. As recounted in the American Socitety of Media Photographers analysis and the letter to NYT from freelancers who say they cannot sign the new contract, the basic consensus for most shooters is clear: the contract simply appropriates all value for NYT and leaves the photographers with all the expenses and legal liabilities. Great. Editorial Photographers, mentioned here only one entry ago, has also entered the fray, urging its members not to sign.

And staffers at companies like NYT, who make more than freelancers, have got to be watching their backs now too. The future for them looks grim. Read Greg Smith’s core article to work-out the numbers for yourself.

5 min read

The Devil You Know

Santa Clara, (C) 2004 K. Bjorke I’m hardly the only one struggling with the hidden expenses and travails of digital. Read this recent Digital Manifesto from Editorial Photographers. The very group whom camera companies love to promote as users of their top digital equipment are, in fact, getting powerfully squeezed as a result of that equipment. Or at least by people’s attitudes about it.

There are a number of factors in play here, regarding the relationship of fee structures and technology. There’s plenty of polarization in camps, plenty of confusion, and (as EP members have discovered) plenty of opportunity for abuse. Perhaps not surprisingly, these occurences are not new to other fields that have been diffused with digital technology.

As Paul Strassman has become famous in Information Technology circles for pointing out, digital technology alone does not make anyone more profitable or more productive. On balance, it may even be hard to economically justify the existence of the entire computer industry, in broad terms of enhancing the overall economy. His 1997 book, The Squandered Computer, brought many of these issues into sharp focus, though its message was (at the time) drowned-out by the dot-com boom (even as his message presaged the later dot-com crash).

Strassman (and other economists) asked: what’s the Return On Investment (ROI)? Where’s the beef? As Nobel winner Robert Solow observed: “We see computers everywhere but not in the productivity statistics.”

4 min read

Optimistic Requiem

Some time ago I’d mentioned David Pye’s The Nature and Art of Workmanship, a book recommended to me w.r.t. photography but which I felt has far-reaching consequences throughout all creative, information-intensive endeavors. It’s actually a follow-on to a 1964 book titled The Nature of Design (in fact in it he hints at the later book to come, writing in the final pages: “there is no space here to write what needs writing about workmanship…”).

Today we’ve been discussing upgrades and rewrites and redesigns, the advent of the next generation of graphics hardware, algortihms, and paradigms. Great, amazing stuff, to follow (and eventually bury) the great, amazing stuff that’s already been accomplished. We collect our facts, our task plans, our AI’s and PORs; scratch our heads wondering “how will we ever get this finished?” But really, is it ever finished? Has software ever been finished?

Pye writes, in the days before lasers, desktop computers, or anyone had bothered coining terms like “software engineering,” “use cases,” or “design patterns”:

1 min read

Continuous Growth

Happy Birthday! Another Spring (C) 2004 K. Bjorke I just realized, looking at my calendar, that sometime during the month of March, Botzilla has reached its tenth anniversary!

Sometime in March of 1994, after a decade of junkie-like email usage (ihnp4, baby!), I went onto the infant web with my own site via rahul.net, listed on the “NCSA Cool Site of the Day” first as “National Pixel Products,” and then (as the site grew past software marketing and photo galleries to include tools and pages on my friend Jim’s program The Palace), as “Botzilla” and “The House o’ Props n Bots.”

I can still remember getting that first copy of NCSA Mosaic for my SGI workstation and being told that I could use it to access interesting data “from more than a hundred different sites!”

So belated cheers, o-tanjobi omedeto gozaimasu, and here’s hoping that by the time another ten years have passed we aren’t stuck with another Bush in the White House, heh.

~1 min read