Phantoms in the Photographs

As I was building my albums in my new photo gallery, I noticed that very, very few of my photographs have people in them. And if people are present, they’re distant, anonymous, face hidden from the camera.

I didn’t, consciously set out to stage photographs in such a way that no human is in them. However, I have found myself, time and again, holding on a shot until a person is no longer in the frame, even if the person could add to the picture. For instance, when taking a group of rocks in the desert, putting a person into the scene adds depth and perspective. Still, I hold on the shot until it is people free.

My people-less photography has nothing to do with photographic preference, as I love ‘people’ photographs. When I lived in San Francisco, the frame and art gallery across the street from my condo used to feature wonderful B&W; male nudes, usually showing one man against a natural background, such as amidst rocks at the ocean. And there was a set of photographs from years ago of naked women who were painted so that it looked like they were wearing clothes. My memory is fragmented, but I believe the photos were for Vogue. I think these were fascinating, and beautifully staged and colored.

I have, also, long admired those who can capture the essence of a person, or of the human experience, in just one photo, be it a portrait or a scene. It’s an extraordinary gift.

However, the more I work with my photography, the more I’m finding that, for me, the photograph isn’t the end in itself. Each picture is nothing more than a stage, a backdrop for a story waiting for the actors.

Either that or I see my world populated only by phantoms.


All you need is PHP

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Sam Ruby says life changed for him, for the better, when he discovered PHP:

Later this month I turn 41. For me, the last three felt like ten. In a good way.

What changed it all for me? PHP

I’m writing the first release of Post Content in PHP, so I’m hoping that the magic works for me, too. However, I’m also using Perl — will this block the good stuff?

Connecting Weblogging

Looking Glass Self

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Jonathon wrote today:

Surely much of the joy and many of the rewards of any relationship come from having our beliefs challenged, from having the opportunity to experience the world through someone else’s eyes.

We talk of “weblogging avatars” as if we can each be so easily classified. We see each other through words on a screen and we think we know all there is to know about our neighbors, only to find out in a shattering instant that those who agree strongly with us on some topics do not agree, just as strongly, on others. As weblogging matures, we’re going to need to come to the truth that each of us is not a looking glass reflection of those who read what we write.

In response to Mike’s questions on gender stereotypes, Dorothea answers with far more courage than I. She writes:

But Mike, as best I can tell, would rather I kill the category, summarily execute this part of my written self. He has an image of women (not just his wife, but all women, including me and Shelley and Tish and Jeneane and Halley) that he wants desperately to cling to unmodified, to believe in, to advocate, to proclaim, indeed to deify. I think I threaten that image. No, I know I do. Who am I to be a goddess? Yet if I am not a goddess in Mike’s eyes, what can I be to him?

I don’t know. I wanted to be a person, but in all honesty, his cherished image of people who happen to be female won’t leave me free to be the kind of person I know myself to be. I want to be that person, not any kind of goddess, not any kind of ideal. I do feel diminished in comparison with Mike’s ideal. How could I not? But I must still refuse to try to inhabit it. I must still refuse to endorse it. I must still challenge it.

Viewing each other flatly, through the reflection of companionship engineered by the newness of this medium will only last so long. “We are writing ourselves into existence”, only lasts until it reaches the barrier of the real world, and we realize that each of us is a three-dimensional person who existed before weblogging. Can we accept that, and accept each other’s differences? More than that, can we look beyond our expectations, and shatter the looking glass?

Dorothea also writes:

No, take that back—I like these people now. I do. I am upset and bewildered that this should be such a barrier, that this self I am constructing is so difficult for other selves to accept. I don’t know how best to handle my own thoughts and feelings, much less those of others concerned.

I have no answers, any more than I ever have. I don’t feel good about any of this; I feel tired and empty, unheard and valueless. I used to think that I could best contribute (whatever that means; I have tried three times to define what I mean by it and failed) by telling my stories, airing my hurts and fears and angers and suggestions, making this self I am writing as whole a one as I can.

…making this self I am writing as whole a one as I can.

We have gone beyond the stage of crying out “All we need is love, love, love” and moving in for a virtual group hug. And this transcends silly issues of delinking and blogging popularity.

Can we accept each other’s differences. No, let me phrase that differently: can we celebrate each other’s differences, regardless of the strengths of our own beliefs? I don’t know. I really don’t know.

Lastly, Dorothea also writes:

If I continue blogging, that is. As I said, I am a bare few inches from the end of my rope.

Dorothea, all I can say is that if you left, I would miss your self, badly. Your whole self.


Learned terrorism

Michael sent me a link to an editorial that talks about Learned Helplessness and its association with the current ‘war on terror’. The author. Kriselda Jarnsaxa, writes:

The experience of the last 15 months here in America seems to be producing a nation suffering from learned helplessness. Fear is induced through the constant, but oh-so-vague, warnings emanating from the government. Another attack is imminent, we are told, they may be coming to blow up our banks, our hotels, our apartments, our holiday celebrations. They may be coming in hidden on boats, or scuba-diving to our shores. They may already be here, hidden among us, and we don’t even know it. They may use suicide bombers or shoulder-mounted surface-to-air misses can knock planes from the sky. Crop dusters may be used to spread biological agents, or they may load a conventional bomb with nuclear waste to spread radiation throughout a large city. May… may… may… may. The list of horrors is nearly endless, as is the imagination of those whose job it is to come up with new warnings, it seems. We see no escape from this fear, and are told our only hope is to sacrifice our freedoms, our cherished liberties, our very way of life, on the altar of security, so we do – willingly, it seems – and never realizing that maybe, we should be afraid of our government, too.

I didn’t think to equate my country’s seeming inability to wake up and see the nightmare with Learned Helplessness. An interesting twist.

This follows on Bush cutting federal employee pay raise, because, as he says, the money is needed for the War on Terror:

In a letter sent Friday to congressional leaders, Bush announced he was using his authority to change workers’ pay structure in times of “national emergency or serious economic conditions” to limit raises to 3.1 percent.

Of course, one can ask why Bush doesn’t roll back the tax cuts, which only benefit the wealthy.

I don’t know why we just don’t send the Congress home. Bush has been given powers that allow him to alter or change any law he wishes in the ‘name of national security”, and Congress lets him. The American public lets him.

As long as Bush plans on bombing Iraq and, we presume, to follow through to other countries such as Iran (Israel’s personal favorite), and Saudi Arabia (the US personal favorite), the voting public of this country seems indifferent to what Bush does. However, I don’t think the public reaction (or lack of same) is based on Learned Helplessness: I think it’s based on equal parts fear, retribution, greed, and a desire to show the world that the US is top dog and can kick anyone’s butt.

Cry “Havoc!” and let loose the dogs of war

Shakespeare, Julius Caesar