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Miley Twerk

I never expected to make comment on the career of Miley Cyrus here on the blog, but then again, I never expected to come across the greatest sketch of Miley Cyrus ever made.

The drawing, titled Miley Twerking, was made by my friend Christian Nagler. It originally appeared in the Fall 2013 Issue of Actually People Quarterly (APQ), an indie print publication based in San Francisco. APQ and Nagler kindly provided permission to share the picture.

There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t see a thumbnail image of Miley Cyrus in the sidebar of some website. Collections of Cyrus-resembling pixels are ubiquitous. In terms of describing Miley-Cyrus-the-person, a photograph is almost meaningless. In terms of describing Miley Cyrus-the-product, a photograph is the perfect hype-spinning money-making tool.

The reason I like Nagler’s sketch so much is that skewers the ridiculous theatre of her MTV Awards twerking AND undermines the grotesque image-driven publicity machine that surrounds her. It lays bare what she is and discards the useless debate of who she is.

Cyrus is, as with all celebrities, almost unknowable. She is not a person, but a product. She is no longer a who, but a what. Photography when it encounters celebrity elevates and promotes the what. Photography may purport to depict the who, but it does not.

This is my reading and not necessarily Nagler’s intent. I think he is genuinely interested in Cyrus; perplexed by the who, the what, and the gap between.

“The reason I think Christian’s picture is amazing is because it leaves space left open,” says APQ founder and editor, Sarah Fontaine. “It doesn’t totally proscribe an opinion on her. There’s a level of investment. A drawing takes time but a photo takes an instant.”

If I could even know Cyrus, I don’t think I’d dislike her. Everyone wants to have an opinion about Cyrus’ conduct. Some think her various states of undress hinder the movement of our culture toward one of gender equality. Often Cyrus is the focus of vitriol and frustration, but perhaps we should be looking at society as a whole? I’ll defer to Gloria Steinem and suggest we hate the game, not the player.

“I think that we need to change the culture, not blame the people that are playing the only game that exists,” said Steinem.

Photography upholds, forwards and fortifies the game. Nagler’s sketch respectfully questions the game. My thoughts on photographing Miley Cyrus? Don’t.

I started Wednesday Words last week to throw out some brief and wise writings on prisons. I’ve got Winston Churchill, Charles Darrow and David Ramsbottom lying in wait. But they must all hold fire because I am taking the podium this week.

I have just unsubscribed from Getty’s Photoblog. Having it filter through my reader next to thoughtful and (in most cases) non-commercial blogs it became plainly obvious Getty are pandering to their audience. The result is a bland regurgitation of celebrity imagery. I guess this is what their audience wants. GettyBlog is watery gruel compared to the rest of the blogophotobiosphere.

My conclusion: Getty is effectively held captive by their audience.

Apparently, Getty Blog’s readership wants about 60 or 70% of Getty’s narrative to be about young, famous women and their clothing choices. Well, I don’t.

This minor alteration to my daily visual feed came a day after I read Confessions of a Former Online Producer, a candid piece by Jake Ellison;

During my last year at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, in its last year as a newspaper, I published online thousands of pictures of half-starved, mostly naked women – celebrities and fashion models. I even became so deranged as to argue vehemently in the newsroom that those photos were necessary because we were a dying industry and people wanted to look at those women, so get on board.

The Seattle PostGlobe is an all volunteer, blog-reporting venture made up of many former Seattle Post Intelligencer journalists. The P-I went under a couple of months ago and the PostGlobe is simultaeneously a service to the now one paper Emerald City, a boredom evasion technique, experiment in new-journalism and an acknowledged unsustainable economic model. For all those reasons I love it, support it and endorse it.

I’d tweet its stories more often but the PostGlobe’s URLs are 142 characters long!

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